Carl Crim was born in Doniphan, Missouri on March 11, 1915 to Ed Franklin Crim and Cora Rutledge. He was one of three children. When he was just a young boy, his family moved from Missouri to Okmulgee, Oklahoma.
While working on the family farm as a teenager, Crim aspired to become a truck driver when he watched trucks go by as he plowed the fields near the highway. After operating a hay carrier during the harvest seasons, Crim graduated from Okmulgee High School and his career ambition began to take shape when he took his first professional driving job in 1933 in Okmulgee.
Crim would work at a variety of trucking firms. He drove trucks for:John Lewis Truck Company (2 years),
Petroleum Transport (4 years),
Hopkins Truck Co. of Ponca City (3 years) and
Mid-Continent Petroleum of Okmulgee (1 year)
Crim soon developed a reputation for often being the first to arrive at scenes of accidents, administering first aid, and sometimes performing heroic acts.
In 1938, he was filling a 1,000-gallon underground gasoline storage tank from his truck at the MK&O bus terminal in downtown Tulsa. At one step in the process, he had to remove the cap from the underground tank to gauge capacity. With the cap off, fumes from the tank crept across the concrete floor to the opposite wall. At the same moment, a worker began operating an arc-weld torch at the opposite wall. A spark from the arc-weld torch ignited the gas fumes. Flames swept across the concrete floor toward Crim and the 1,000 gallons of gasoline. Reacting instantly, without thought of his safety, Crim smothered the area around the opening to the underground storage tank with a tarpaulin, then, with the flames lapping around his legs, quickly screwed the cap back onto the truck. He then extinguished the flames burning about his legs. Crim received only “slight singes” from the fire. However, were it not for Crim’s quick-thinking, the entire bus station with several dozen waiting passengers might have been blown to pieces had the gas tank exploded.
Another accident happened in October 1940 when a driver of a Mid-Continent truck had an accident and caught fire. Crim was one of the first on the scene and with the help of another passerby, carried Guy Arnold from the burning wreckage and surely kept him from burning to death.
He enlisted in the United States Army on April 12, 1944 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. For the duration of World War II, he hauled tanks, trucks and other heavy equipment for the Army in the southwestern Pacific arena.
After his discharge from the service, Carl Crim returned home to his family in Okmulgee and began work as a driver for two years at H.C. Price of Bartlesville.
By June 1947, he switched jobs and started working at Hugh Breeding Inc., a firm he would serve at for almost the next twenty years as a Leased Operator, owning his own 46-foot, 5,700 gallon tank truck and leasing it on jobs. He drove out of the company’s Okmulgee terminal and hauled gasoline and other products from the Phillips Petroleum Company refinery at Okmulgee.
In 1948, he was first on the scene following a head-on collision between two tractor semi-trailer units in West Tulsa. Crim carried a Frisco Transportation Company driver from his flaming vehicle to safety, thereby saving his life. In 1954, just south of Beggs, Oklahoma, a car skidded off an ice-coated pavement and balanced on a creek bank. Crim came upon the accident and pulled two men from the wreckage. One apparently was not hurt badly, the other seemed to have internal injuries. The man who seemed unhurt later died as a result of the wreck.
On July 25, 1956, Crim had been visiting one of his customers at Claremore. As he reached a point approximately nine miles south of Claremore, a pickup started to pass a late model sedan and ran head-on into a state highway truck. The pickup overturned and a female passenger was seriously injured. Again, Crim was first on the scene as he pulled the injured people from the cars, applied first aid to the injured, sent for the Highway Patrol and ambulance, then assisted in traffic control until the injured people were removed and the highway cleared.
In March 1958, Carl Crim received the “Driver of the Month” award at a luncheon by the Oklahoma Council of Safety Supervisors and The Associated Motor Carriers of Oklahoma. Crim was selected for the month of February, 1958 on the basis of having driven 26 years and an accumulated mileage of 1,477,581 miles without any type of an accident and maintaining a perfect safety record. The judges of the contest were Chief of Police Roy Bergman, Oklahoma City Council Manager Dan Hollingsworth and Oklahoma Traffic Judge P. James Demopolos. A driver was selected each month and then became eligible to participate for the “Driver of the Year” award in Oklahoma.
In November 1958, Carl Crim was named Oklahoma’s Truck Driver of the Year at the 28th annual convention of The Associated Motor Carriers of Oklahoma, Inc. held at the Hotel Tulsa.
Officials of the state drivers’ association were impressed most by the story of how Crim’s fast-thinking may have saved the life of dozens of persons in a Tulsa bus terminal. This, with his safe-driving record of 1,500,000 miles, and other acts of heroism involving automobile accidents, were the prime factors in consideration of Crim for the state driving award. After winning the State award, Crim was entered in competition for the national “Truck Driver of the Year” award.
On May 21, 1959, Carl Crim received a telegram from the American Trucking Associations (ATA) in Washington DC which designated him as the National Truck Driver of the Year.
Heading the committee of judges for the Driver of the Year competition was John J. Allen, Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation. O
Just a few days before he left for Washington to receive the award, Crim had the closest brush he’d had as a professional driver. He was on Highway 66 near West Bristow, Oklahoma, hauling 5,700 gallons of gasoline at about 8:30 in the morning when he saw a car coming at him, the left wheel about a foot across the center line. Crim blasted his air horn, but that did not help. Crim hit the shoulder and missed the vehicle by about 2 or 3 inches.
On June 3, 1959 Crim and his wife met Vice President Richard Nixon who awarded him a diamond pin for being America’s Truck Driver of the Year. Nixon congratulated Crim on his safety record. He also appeared on several national television and radio programs and was interviewed by a number of nationally known writers. He was also supposed to appear on TV during the Ed Sullivan Show, but a comedian exceeded the allotted time, preventing Crim's appearance.
Upon returning to Okmulgee, Oklahoma, special recognition was accorded to Crim on July 3, 1959 as the town observed “Carl Crim Day” in conjunction with the 7th annual Pioneer Pow Wow celebration. Taking a “busman’s holiday,” Crim appeared for the opening day parade driving his truck.
On September 4, 1959, Crim and his wife traveled to Oklahoma City where he was honored with a testimonial luncheon at the Biltmore Hotel. J. Robert Cooper, president of ATA, was on hand to deliver the principal address for the occasion. The four-foot high National Driver of the Year trophy was displayed after the presentation by president Cooper.
Over the remainder of 1959, Crim received much notoriety for winning the National Driver of the Year Award. He was featured on the cover of Petroleum and Chemical Transporter Magazine and in several advertisements; one for Autocar and in another with International Harvester where he shared space with the 1959 AL Cy Young Award winner, Early Wynn.
In 1937, Carl Crim met Steffie Skales, who was working in a local cafe when Crim decided to ask her out. Within, two weeks, the young couple decided to get married. They would remain married for forty years. He had converted to the Catholic Faith and was confirmed on May 8, 1959 by Bishop Victor J. Reed. For many years, he was a member of St. Anthony’s parish in Okmulgee.
In 1964, Hugh Breeding Inc. closed their terminal in Okmulgee and Carl Crim began his employment at Transport Insurance. In 1968, Crim and his wife would leave Okmulgee and move to Tulsa. He would continue working for quite a few more years, eventually accumulating over three million accident-free miles.
Crim died in February 1978 at a Tulsa hospital following a lengthy illness. At the time of his death, he was 62 years old. He was interred at the Memorial Park Cemetery in Tulsa.