Jonathan Wilford Crudgington, jurist, son of Eli Crudgington, was born in Roane County near Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1859. His father fought with distinction in the Union Army during the Civil War and returned afterward to the farm to raise his four children. In 1870 the family moved to Rockwall County, Texas, east of Dallas. Seven years later they moved to another farm near Breckenridge in Stephens County. Crudgington received a common school education and developed a regard for his health; from an early age he put emphasis on daily exercise and cold baths each morning.
About 1880 he formed a partnership with his brother James and began railroad contracting. Among other projects they pushed to get the Fort Worth and Denver City line through the Panhandle and graded the Tascosa Cut in northwestern Potter County. Crudgington was in the new rail town of Amarillo for the festivities when the county was officially organized in 1887. In 1889, after studying law under Judge William Veale in Breckenridge, he was admitted to the bar. A year later he married the judge's daughter, Alliene. Four sons and three daughters were born to them.
During the height of the Populist movement in the 1890s (see PEOPLE'S PARTY), Crudgington was elected Stephens county judge. He moved to Palo Pinto in 1902 and two years later to Amarillo, where he joined the law firm of his brother-in-law, John Veale. He immediately became involved in the city's prohibition battle, which the drys eventually won in 1908. From that time on Crudgington participated in or initiated several civic improvements in Amarillo. With Veale, James C. Paul, and the brothers Henry A. and Millard C. Nobles, he built the city's streetcar system in 1907. He helped initiate the building of Amarillo's first municipal auditorium in 1921 and was the first vice president of the Tri-State Fair commission in 1923; largely through his efforts alcoholic beverages were forbidden on the fairgrounds. His greatest civic triumph was the successful legal battle over ownership of the Potter County Courthouse square property, a case he carried to the state Supreme Court. Crudgington was known as a brilliant orator. He served two terms in the Texas legislature (1914–18) and was a leader in the statewide prohibition effort. He also supported the founding of West Texas State Normal College (now West Texas A&M University) in Canyon and encouraged the fledgling institution to rebuild after the disastrous fire of 1914. Crudgington was also a prime mover in the Santa Fe Railroad's successful fight to build into Amarillo from Washburn and connect with its Pecos Valley line in 1908. Later, in 1925, he helped Albert S. Stinnett to secure the Rock Island line from Liberal, Kansas, to Amarillo.
Crudgington was an elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Amarillo, where he taught a Sunday school class for twenty-seven years. He was moderator of the synod of the Presbyterian Church in Texas in 1928 and also served as a member of the church's permanent judicial commission. He died of a heart attack at his home on Tyler Street on June 17, 1934, and was interred in Memorial Park Cemetery, Amarillo.