Gold and blue triangle

In Memory of Steve Crump

(August 31, 2023)


Journalist, documentarian, and friend, Steve Crump, passed away Thursday morning, August 31, 2023, following a battle with cancer, according to a WBTV statement.


The board and staff of North Carolina Humanities join many others in Charlotte and across the state who mourn his passing. Our thoughts are with his wife Cathy, his family, close friends, and colleagues.


NC Humanities got to know Steve well last year when he was presented the 2022 John Tyler Caldwell Award for the Humanities.


“Steve was a light. From the moment I first met him, his passion and warmth radiated in the entire room. He has been a pillar in the Charlotte community for many years, and his presence will greatly be missed,” said NC Humanities Executive Director Sherry Paula Watkins.


During the Caldwell Award presentation, NC Humanities trustee and former Charlotte Observer Editor, Rick Thames, said this, “Steve, of course, has been a standout journalist at WBTV for nearly four decades. And that only begins to describe his contributions to the Carolinas.”


Steve Crump will forever be remembered and revered at NC Humanities.




The remembrance below is from NC Humanities’ 2022 announcement of Steve as the Caldwell Award recipient. It is courtesy of Mark Washburn, Steve’s close friend and former Charlotte Observer reporter.


Charlotte broadcaster Steve Crump has been a reporter at WBTV, North Carolina’s first television station, for nearly four decades. But it is his passion for documentary film-making – largely for public broadcasting – that distinguishes him from his peers and stands as a corpus of work defining the evolution of racial boundaries in Charlotte and the South. Nine Crump documentaries have gone into national distribution to PBS stations.


Of his 30+ films, eight have won regional Emmys and have covered topics ranging from Martin Luther King Jr.’s last days, to lunch counter sit-ins in the Carolinas, to the perils of Dorothy Counts, who was taunted and spat upon by a white crowd on the first day of school in 1957 when she integrated Charlotte’s Harding High School. Over the years, Crump has interviewed a constellation of notables – ranging from Desmond Tutu to Pete Seeger to Angelina Jolie – for his documentaries. His first films grew out of a 1993 WBTV assignment to Somalia to cover famine relief missions.


One 1996 documentary was the poignant “Souls of Passage,” which traced the trade route from the slave dungeons of the African coast to the cotton fields of the Carolinas. After the Africa productions, he went on to explore issues as diverse as bebop music, the development of the banjo, black World War II heroes and 19th century black jockeys, all produced on his own time and shoestring budgets.


Many of Crump’s productions have captured the last living memories of key Civil Rights figures, their final perspectives memorialized in video before their deaths. Now viewed as vital to the region’s historical record, his specials are part of the permanent collections at both UNC Charlotte and the University of South Carolina.


Crump, a Louisville native and 1980 Eastern Kentucky University graduate, has roots that run deep into the bluegrass. He grew up in Louisville’s industrial Smoketown district, two blocks from the Louisville Slugger factory and three blocks over from the gym where Muhammad Ali learned to box. Crump moved to Charlotte in the 1980’s.


A great-great-grandson of slaves, he credits his storytelling skills to listening at the kitchen table of his childhood home, where three generations of family wove rich tales of their lives. Antebellum reminisces of agrarian life in Kentucky’s Bourbon Belt were still crisp in family lore, and through Crump they still are.


Crump was the recipient of 2013’s Martin Luther King Jr. Medallion, which honors a Charlottean who has worked to promote racial equality and social justice. His career reputation is widely recognized for fearlessness, and fairness. Crump and his wife Cathy live in north Charlotte.