Crump was born in Richmond about 1838 and was the son of Johanna Crump (whose maiden name is unknown) and Josiah Crump, who was later said to have been the only African American in Richmond to run a hotel for white customers. Whether Crump was born free or enslaved is unclear, and records pertaining to his early life are scarce. By 1860 he was free, residing inwith his mother and stepfather, James Robinson, and working with the latter as a teamster. After Robinson’s death, Crump ran wagons and hauled freight until 1871, by which time he was working as a clerk in the Richmond post office. The city’s postmaster, , was a leader of the city’s Republican Party, and Crump’s appointment likely indicates that he had begun taking part in Republican Party politics. He purchased his first property in Richmond in October 1872 and thereafter owned one or two lots and houses in the city.
In 1870 and 1875 Crump attended conventions organized to advance the interests of African American laboring men in Richmond. In May 1876 he won election to Richmond’s bicameral city council. He represented Jackson Ward on the board of aldermen from 1876 to 1884 and again from 1888 to 1890. Crump sat on committees that were important to his constituents, such as the Committees for the First and Second Markets, as well as the Committees on the Police and on Streets, to which African American members usually were appointed. He also served on the Committee on Ordinances, a rarity for a black alderman, and on relatively less-prestigious committees including those on Public Grounds and Buildings and on Claims and Salaries.
Crump and other African American community leaders succeeded in many ways in protecting or improving the lives of their constituents in spite of opposition from a whitemajority that was usually united. Even during the growing racial hostility of the 1880s and 1890s, Crump and his colleagues established a night school for adults, provided fuel for poor residents, made improvements to streets and installed better lighting, and ended the practice of grave-robbing by which medical schools obtained African American cadavers for dissecting laboratories. Such achievements were not matched until the post–World War II generation of civil rights pioneers.
Crump served as a member of the Republican State Committee in 1880. A loyal supporter of, he was one of 306 delegates at that year’s Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, who tried to nominate Grant for a third term as president. Like many other politically active African Americans, Crump supported the , who proposed to refinance and reduce the principal and interest rate on Virginia’s large . At the 1881 Republican State Convention, he was elected temporary chair of the faction that successfully pushed for a coalition with the Readjusters.
In 1882 theappointed Crump to a two-year term on the board of the Central Lunatic Asylum, in Petersburg, the state’s first black mental hospital. Crump was the board’s president pro tempore, a member of the executive committee, and briefly acting president when the presiding officer resigned in January 1883. Throughout the 1880s Crump offered advice on local politics and patronage policy to , the Readjuster leader who joined the Republican Party while a member of the U.S. Senate from 1881 to 1887.
Crump may have lived with his mother until he married Fernella Meriweather, a member of a prominent middle-class African American family, on December 19, 1883. They had two daughters and one son. Sometime after his marriage Crump joined Saint Philip’s Episcopal Church. He lost his job as a postal clerk after a Democrat won the presidential election in 1884, and late in the 1880s he operated a grocery near his home. A member of Davis Fountain 106, Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers, he was also a captain in the Attucks Guard, one of the city’s black militia companies.
Crump died of pyaemia, a form of blood poisoning, at his Richmond home on February 15, 1890. He had won respect in both the black and white communities in the increasingly segregated city. Richmond’s aldermen passed resolutions of mourning that praised their former colleague as “one of the most active and zealous members of the Board who by his courteous and kind bearing won the esteem and good will of his fellow members, … who was always faithful and conscientious in the discharge of his duties to his constituents, and who was ever watchful of the interests of the city.” Many aldermen and common council members joined a crowd estimated at 5,000 to 6,000 in paying their respects to Crump and riding in the procession to the funeral service at the Third Street African Methodist Episcopal Church. (His own church had been too small for the throngs of people expected to attend.) Crump was buried in Union Mechanics Cemetery.