Reba Crawford, a name all but forgotten about in recent decades, but in the 1920s and 1930s she made national headlines, was the subject of scandals and was rival to one of the biggest names in Evangelical Los Angeles; Aimee Semple McPherson, no stranger to scandal and national headlines herself.
Born in Milwaukee in 1898 and the daughter of two Salvation Army ministers, it was no surprise that Reba took to preaching and built up a following before coming to Los Angeles.
She became involved in Aimee Semple McPherson’s Angelus Temple in downtown L.A. and was a regular Sunday preacher there. But because she was striking in appearance and, as gossip columnist Walter Winchell once quipped “she was an inspiring speaker and had the best legs West of The Mississippi”, she often clashed with McPherson.
In 1931 she became involved in welfare work in Los Angeles, and was appointed by then-California Governor Jones Rolph as Director of the California State Department of Welfare. It was there that she turned political and became a much admired as well as reviled figure.
In 1937, the time of this broadcast, she was involved in a long and contentious slander suit as the result of her ouster from Angelus Temple. McPherson had circulated rumors that Crawford was not as “pure as the wind-driven snow” as she portrayed and had characterized her as something of a slut, which her enemies grabbed on to and used. This didn’t prevent Reba Crawford from taking to the airwaves with a weekly commentary on the political goings-on around L.A. City Hall and Sacramento as well as filing a $1 million suit for slander.
Like another commentator of life around L.A. City Hall, Clifford Clinton, Crawford was fully engaged in battling corruption. But like everything else in L.A. it was difficult to tell whose side who was on.
But to get an idea of one of the more fiery personalities in Los Angeles in the 1930s, here is a broadcast she made for radio station KMTR in Hollywood on December 6, 1937.
I think it’s safe to say they don’t make ’em like that anymore.