Crews, Albert R.
Albert Randall Crews was born in Mount Erie, Illinois, on June 15, 1908 into a family of fervent Methodists. He studied English and journalism at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1929. His career in journalism was launched in Indiana just after his graduation, where he went on to be the managing editor of the Hammond Telegram newspaper and the owner of the Albany Chronicle. Faced with reverses in the newspaper business, Crews moved into education; he studied at the Indiana State Teacher’s College for five months before going on to teach journalism in 1933 at Hammond (Indiana) High School.
In 1935, shortly after marrying Lois McSloy of Evanston, Illinois, Crews enrolled in Northwestern University’s School of Speech for graduate study, taking a Master of Arts in Speech degree in 1937. While at Northwestern, he was the managing editor of The Drama, which promoted amateur theatrical productions, and wrote several radio dramas and plays, including his Master’s thesis Let My People Go, an examination of racial inequality in higher education.
Also in 1935, Crews began teaching radio acting and writing in the School of Speech’s new Radio program. By 1938, he was the head of the Department, and served as chair until 1943. He started the Radio Playshop in 1939 as a workshop specializing in the production and broadcast of student-written scripts. Playshop productions were first broadcast over Chicago station WJJD, and later over station WIND. While some scripts were original, written by students in the course, many scripts were adaptations of stories by well-known authors. The Playshop programs continued until 1953. Crews was instrumental in establishing Northwestern’s Summer Radio Institute in 1942.
In subsequent years Crews worked for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and as the production director of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). Crews was also involved in setting up a radio department at the United States Army University in Biarritz, France; rehabilitating the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation under General Douglas MacArthur following World War II; and traveling the world as the director of production for the Protestant Radio Commission. In 1957, he became the director of program promotion and station relations at the Broadcasting and Film Commission of the National Council of Churches. Throughout the course of his career Crews wrote several plays and textbooks.
Crews died of a heart attack at his home in Port Washington, New York, on May 11, 1959.
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Albert R. Crews chaired Northwestern University's new Radio department from 1938-1943, teaching radio acting and writing. His papers contain biographical material and published writings documenting his education, teaching, and later career.