08/26/04 — Legacy: The spreading influences of one woman’s life

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Legacy: The spreading influences of one woman’s life

The influences of some lives seem to ripple across the earth in endless circles, like the water when a pebble is thrown into a pond. That’s the way June Kay Campbell’s life was.

And it started so inauspiciously. June Kay was a little black baby born in Wilmington in the mid-1920s. No one at that time could have guessed that she would have a son who would become the mayor of Atlanta, Ga. That was Bill Campbell, who lived in Atlanta.

And no one would have guessed that another son, Ralph Jr., would be the state auditor of North Carolina, the first black person elected to public office in a statewide election, and the first black elected to the Council of State, which comprises the elected state department heads and the lieutenant governor.

June Kay was going to Shaw University in Raleigh when she met Ralph Campbell Sr., whom she married in 1946. Together, they became active in the civil rights movement.

Some of their efforts were public — for example, when Mrs. Campbell accompanied Bill to a formerly all-white elementary school in Raleigh when he was 7. He was the first black child to attend a Raleigh school that had been white and segregated. That was in 1960.

At their home over the years, Mrs. Campbell fed civil rights activists and helped direct their meetings. It was from her table that their frequent guests took their name — the Oval Table Gang. At this table, they discussed their civil rights work, their strategies and their visions. This is where some of the ripples began.

But others came from the way she raised her children. She raised them to be, like their parents, hard-working and determined to achieve.

At her funeral at Raleigh’s St. Ambrose Episcopal Church this week, Ralph Campbell Jr. recalled that his mother had little tolerance for nonsense. When the children didn’t want to obey, she simply reminded them, “I’m the parent; you’re the child,” and that ended the protests.

As state auditor, Ralph Campbell has done a commendable job. When discrepancies involving state money have been found, he has acted without fear or favor to bring them to the attention of the proper authorities.

He is a man to whom his fellow Democrats should look for even higher office in the future. Who knows how much further June Campbell’s ripples might reach?

Published in Editorials on August 26, 2004 12:16 PM