in West View Gallery, with pieces from his collection
Allen Pruitt Crawford was born to Robert and Blanche Pruitt Crawford in Honea Path, South Carolina on June 3, 1914. As a student at Furman University, he studied history and English, and won the Durham Oratorical Context with a speech on "Security Through Character." He graduated in 1936.
After leaving Furman, Crawford earned graduate degrees from Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, Union Seminary, and Columbia University. During this time, he worked with the American Baptist Convention as a religious education consultant, and pastored churches in Flint, Michigan and Elmira and Garden City, New York. In 1947, Crawford joined the public relations staff of the Ford Motor Company in New York City as an editor. He remained with Ford until his retirement in 1971.
Upon retiring, Allen Crawford returned to Honea Path, purchased the schoolhouse he had attended as a child, and transformed it into a home and art museum he called West View Gallery. He dedicated himself to studying and collecting fine American art and antiques, eventually amassing a collection called one of the largest of its kind in the South by the Atlanta Journal. Crawford applied particular energy to researching the American painter Hudson Mindell Kitchell. Kitchell, a student of Ralph A. Blakelock, died in obscurity in a poorhouse in Rhode Island, but his works have now achieved prominence in the art world due to Crawford's efforts.
Over the years, Crawford donated much of his art and antique collection to Furman University. A room in the Presidential Suite in the Administration Building is named the Crawford Conference Room in thanks for his generosity. The room is furnished with several of his donated pieces--including the painting "Lulled by the Moonlight" by French artist Albert-Charles Lebourg. Cherrydale Alumni House is also furnished with many Crawford pieces dating from the approximate time of the home's construction in the nineteenth century. The millstones from historic upcountry mills that were displayed on the lawn of West View Gallery are now embedded in walkways across the Furman University campus, along with dedication plaques acknowledging the gifts of Crawford and his brothers, Ned and Jim. Of his donations to the university, Crawford said, "Many important colleges have collections of fine art and furniture. Furman needs to join their ranks. I hope these items from my collection will be a start toward that goal."
Allen P. Crawford died on March 17, 2010 in Honea Path.