Anderson McCrew was a black Dallas hobo in the late 1920s who died when he leapt from a moving train. He was found by the railroad tracks, but no one claimed him until a carnival took his body, mummified it, and toured all over the South with him, calling him “The Famous Mummy Man.” The artefacts and equipment of the carnival eventually ended up in a basement in Dallas, where a woman discovered the mummy. Carnival circulars found with the mummy told that he had lost a leg when he fell to his death. When the story hit the papers, the black community of Dallas gave him a decent burial. McCrew became a folk hero with many articles written about him, including a story in the New York Times, which Don read.
McLean’s song, “The Legend of Andrew McCrew,” inspired radio station WGN in Chicago to broadcast the story and play the song to raise money for a headstone for Anderson McCrew’s grave. Their campaign was successful, and McCrew was exhumed and buried in the prestigious Lincoln Cemetery in Dallas. On his tombstone, paid for by the listeners of WGN, are the following words from the fourth verse of McLean’s song:
What a way to live a life, and what a way to die
Left to live a living death with no one left to cry
A petrified amazement, a wonder beyond worth
A man who found more life in death than life gave him at birth