Arthur “Elwell” Crissey, sometimes called “Cris,” was born February 1, 1899, in Windsor, Missouri, the son of William Ernest and Dora (Greene) Crissey. He had three siblings, two brothers and one sister, all who preceded him in death. He attended Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri, for his undergraduate degree. After college, he worked as a staff reporter at the Kansas City Star and Times newspaper, and then worked on several campaigns (some political) in public relations and fundraising. He married Julia (John) (Crissey) Moose in the 1930s. They had one son, William Elwell Crissey. Shortly after William’s birth, Julia and Elwell divorced. Crissey worked at the Associated Press’ Philadelphia bureau as a day news editor. He moved to New York and attended Colombia University where he received his master’s degree. During World War II, he did public relations work for the military. While living in New York, he met his second wife, Denise Virene (Lawsha) Crissey. They married in New Jersey on June 9, 1948. They had two children, Faith Lenore (Crissey) (Fahrenbach) Campbell, and Brian Laird G. Crissey. After his marriage to Denise, Crissey moved to Bloomington, Illinois to help direct building and public relations for Illinois Wesleyan University, the Baby Fold, and several Methodist institutions. He also began his own company, Superior Insurance Letters/Words at Work, for assisting insurance companies in public relations—specifically in the field of letter writing.
Aside from his professional interests, Crissey was interested in Abraham Lincoln. He wrote and published at least one book about Abraham Lincoln, titled Lincoln’s Lost Speech: The Pivot of His Career. He began research on several other potential books including, Abraham Lincoln: The Orator (a book investigating the speaking style of Abraham Lincoln, including a psychiatric analysis of Lincoln’s speech delivery), and Ann Rutledge: The Real Story. In addition to his Lincolniana research, Crissey published and researched other books.
He later lost interest in Lincoln, believing that he (Lincoln) was no longer a great American figure. In 1989, Crissey published Horse Preacher: A Methodist Circuit Rider Travels the Prodigious Tallgrass Prairies of Illinois during the 1830s. This book followed the story of Crissey’s great-grandfather, the Rev. William Stoddard Crissey, who preached the first sermon by an ordained clergyman in Bloomington and fought at Chickmauga in the Civil War. He also began research for a book evaluating the faith of George Washington (Washington: Colossus of Faith), and another on the history of Scottish Rite Freemasons.
Crissey was related to General Nathanael Greene of the Revolutionary War—an aspect of his heritage of which he was very proud. He strongly believed in a good education—preferably from a storied institution out East, which was why his son Brian ended up transferring to Johns Hopkins. Crissey was not shy in voicing his opinions to others, whether they were a friend, family member, acquaintance, or political figure.
Crissey was very active late in life, evident in his copious letters, ongoing research, participation in organizations such as the Civil War Roundtable, and speaking engagements. He died on February 28, 1992 at BroMenn Regional Medical Center in Normal. He was survived by his wife, Denise, his three children, and eight grandchildren. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Decatur, Illinois.