Nelson Crawford was born May 4, 1888, in Miller, South Dakota. He wrote the first college textbook on journalism ethics, and he was the first director of information for the U. S. Department of Agriculture. He went to Washington in 1925 when Kansas State College president William Jardine was appointed Secretary of Agriculture by President Calvin Coolidge.
He graduated from high school in Council Bluffs, Iowa about 1906, and worked as a writer for newspapers in Iowa and Nebraska until 1909. In 1910, he received a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Iowa, and in 1914, he received a master's degree from the University of Kansas. He later did graduate work at Kansas State Agricultural College.
From 1914 to 1925, he was editor of the Kansas Industrialist. During this same period, he also was on the faculty of Kansas Agricultural College, going from instructor to head of the Department of Industrial Journalism, head of the Printing Department and director of the College Press Service.
After three years at USDA in Washington, he returned to Topeka, Kansas in 1928 to work for Household magazine, serving there as editor-in-chief until 1951 when he became editor and publisher of Author and Journalist. From 1958 until 1963, he was professor of science writing for the Menninger School of Psychiatry in Topeka.
Crawford was a member of Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Sigma Kappa, Sigma Delta Chi, the Masons and the National Press Club in Washington. He died in Topeka June 30, 1963, at the age of 75.