Judy Crichton: Producer of American Experience, Dies at 77

Historians in the News

Judy Crichton, one of the first women to produce news on network television and the first executive producer of “American Experience,” the acclaimed public television history series, died in Manhattan on Sunday. She was 77 and lived in Manhattan.

The cause was complications of leukemia, her daughter Sarah Crichton said.

As executive producer of “American Experience” from 1988 to 1996, under the auspices of WGBH, the Boston PBS affiliate, Ms. Crichton oversaw the production of 100 documentaries. Her works ranged from in-depth looks at the public and private lives of American presidents to accounts of pivotal moments in the civil rights era to a foot-tap-inducing biography of John Philip Sousa, the composer of America’s most stirring military marches.

“She was a world-class film doctor,” said Margaret Drain, Ms. Crichton’s successor as executive producer of “American Experience” and now WGBH’s vice president for national programming. “She’d go into the editing room, move things around and just keep sharpening the language of the script.”

During Ms. Crichton’s tenure as executive producer, “American Experience” won seven Emmys; six Peabody Awards; five Writers Guild Awards; and two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Journalism Awards. In 2000, President Bill Clinton awarded Ms. Crichton the National Humanities Medal.
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