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Remembering civil rights activist Will D. Campbell

2013 June 4
by Mandy Mastrovita

Mississippi native, Baptist preacher, author, and civil rights activist Will D. Campbell passed away on Monday, June 3 at the age of 88.

Known for a lifetime of humanitarian work, Campbell was directly involved with many key events of the Civil Rights Movement. He left the University of Mississippi as its director of religious life in 1954 due to death threats over his support for desegregation. Several years later, in 1957, he escorted the Little Rock 9 into high school, and became the only white person invited by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as a founding member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). He participated in the 1961 Freedom Rides, and the 1963 Birmingham, Alabama civil rights demonstrations. In 1963, he became the Director of the Committee of Southern Churchmen (formerly the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen), where he worked until the late 1970s.  In 1977, he wrote a memoir, Brother to a Dragonfly, for which he became a finalist for the National Book Award, and in 2000, he was awarded the National Endowment for the Humanities medal by President Bill Clinton.

The Civil Rights Digital Library contains numerous archival collection and reference resources on Will D. Campbell, all available at

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