Crutcher grew up in rural Kentucky, graduating as valedictorian of his high school in Nicholasville. He went on to earn a bachelors in history and psychology at Morehouse College and a second degree in religion and philosophy from Florida A&M University. He earned his Master of Divinity from Colgate Rochester in New York with a concentration in pastoral counseling and urban ministry. His Doctor of Ministry was awarded by Vanderbilt University.
He pastored several churches in Kentucky, Georgia and Florida before coming to Birmingham. He became active in the movement for Civil Rights in the early 1960s while pastoring Mount Moriah Baptist of Quincy, Florida. He assisted with voter registration drives and entered his daughter, Wanda, as the first African-American at the local public school. He came to school on her second day, after being told by a cook at the school that no one would play with her. He taught his daughter hopscotch on the playground, after which other girls came to her to learn.
In addition to his ministry, Crutcher worked as a teacher at Oclocknee Elementary School in Thomasville, Georgia and as an admission director at Florida A&M University Hospital in Tallahassee.
At his death in 2007, Crutcher was survived by his wife Addie, daughter Wanda, sons Stephen and Arthur, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. His funeral services were held at Tabernacle Baptist Church with interment at Elmwood Cemetery.
- Garrison, Greg (October 4, 2007) "Rev. James Crutcher dies at 74." Birmingham News.