Local Politics

Family copes with Ralph Campbell's death

Posted January 13, 2011

— Forged in the heat of Raleigh's civil rights movement, the Campbell family remained a tight-knit unit through the years, with members calling each other every morning.

Those phone calls no longer include Ralph Campbell Jr., the first black person elected to a statewide political office in North Carolina, who died Tuesday night after a battle with lung cancer.

"I always looked up to Ralph," said his youngest brother, Eddie Campbell.

"He was really a renaissance man," said Bill Campbell, the middle of the three brothers.

Community activists Ralph Campbell Sr. and June Campbell expected their children to make a difference. Bill Campbell integrated Raleigh public schools in 1960 and later became mayor of Atlanta, and Ralph Campbell Jr. amazed even his most ardent believers when he was elected North Carolina state auditor in 1992.

"When Ralph first told us he was going to run for statewide office, we were, like, 'Come on,'" said his sister, Mildred Christmas.

During his 12 years as state auditor, he brought more technology to the office, and his staff conducted about 3,600 audits during his tenure, including some in the face of political pressure.

"He was able to transform a state that, in many ways, had been backwards," Bill Campbell said.

Gov. Beverly Perdue on Thursday ordered all North Carolina flags at state facilities be flown at half-staff in tribute to Ralph Campbell.

Ralph Campbell Family copes with Ralph Campbell's death

A longtime smoker, Ralph Campbell was diagnosed last fall with lung cancer. His final words to his siblings two weeks ago as he lay dying in Duke Raleigh Hospital helped and hurt them.

"He looked up at us, and he said, 'I love you,' and he looked at all three of us," Christmas said.

Through their pain, though, the Campbells remember a good life their brother led.

Aside from his prominent political career, Ralph Campbell Jr. was a master story teller who connected to most everyone he met. He also was an immaculate dresser with a penchant for classic cars.

"(I would ask) 'Why you keep buying all those cars?' He'd say, 'My money,'" Eddie Campbell said.

Ralph Campbell will lie in repose in the State Capitol rotunda from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday.

A visitation will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday in the Fletcher Opera Theater at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh. His funeral will be at noon Saturday at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, 813 Darby St., followed by interment at Carolina Biblical Gardens in Garner.

"It's painful, but he's at peace," Christmas said.


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  • Big Guy Jan 14, 2011

    Bill Campbell... Is the the same tax evading Mayor of Atlanta and later disbarred from the FLA Supreme Court?

  • Mo Blues Jan 14, 2011

    The cost of living is dying, and everyone has to pay.

  • ccs1920 Jan 14, 2011

    I just saw Purdue crying on the noon news. Anything for a vote. Did you guys see Obama's pep rally on TV Wednesday night?

  • sweetjess14 Jan 14, 2011

    It doesnt bother you me whether you comment on them on not. I just think it is sad that people, and in this case you, point out an issue of "racism" when there clearly is not one. Therefore, I think you must be stuck on the issue of racism and you need to move on.

    I'm sure you weren't commenting on the fact that Elizabeth Edwards received so much news coverage so people would not complain that she was a woman and did not receive the press a passing male did. Same thing.

  • YoucanthandletheTRUTH Jan 14, 2011

    Just as you can read and comment, I can do the same. I could care less what you think of my opinion and you are not required to read them. So, move along.

  • sweetjess14 Jan 14, 2011

    I'm pretty sure you are assuming that they are trying to create equal face time with Elizabeth Edwards and that it pathetic in my eyes that you would even suggest it!

    I believe this IS to share information with the public, whether it is informing people of North Carolina's history (which he is a part of) or notifying them of visitations. I'm sure at least one person will go to his visitation because they saw it on wral.

    Again, if you do not like the story, do not read it. But commenting on racism, etc should be left out to respect the people who do care.

  • YoucanthandletheTRUTH Jan 14, 2011

    You may not think the article is about race but by simply creating more and more stories about nothing, they are trying to give this man equal face time with Elizabeth Edwards so they don't hear complaints that the white woman (while totally unjustified to get the attention she got also) got days of coverage for her death. People who go to visitations and funerals because they know the person enough to do so, don't log on to WRAL news to find that info. It is in the obituary and families/friends/churches let the others know where to be and when. This is not to share the information with the public, sweetjess.

  • packalum09 Jan 14, 2011

    "Why is this a news story because he was the 1st black man in his position? So what!"

    If this were about the first woman in that position, would any of you posters feel differently? Whether first woman, black, hispanic, etc. it's a big deal because at one point in time it was unheard of, and it shows how far we've come as a country.

    "This is the type of story that adds fuel to the fire for racism."

    I don't see anything in the article that would suggest racism of any kind. It merely states the facts.

    "Boy, enough of this story already! Let's move on, there has got to be something else happening."

    I have only read this story once yesterday of his death and then another article about the family coping today. That's it. It's not like this news is being told every 5 minutes.

  • sweetjess14 Jan 14, 2011

    After reading and re-reading this story, I'm not sure why people are bringing up race? Because it mentioned that he was the first black man to be voted into a political office in NC? AND? That is true information and it is part of our history. I do not understand why our society continue to make disrespectful comments when they can simply IGNORE the story!!!

    Maybe wral is still posting the story to make people aware of his visitation today and funeral tomorrow????

    SERIOUSLY PEOPLE!!! GROW UP!!! No wonder our children have no respect!

  • YoucanthandletheTRUTH Jan 14, 2011

    I'm with everyone else. The more we keep bringing race into the mix, the more it fuels racism! Of course the family is coping, thats what you do. Why is this a news story because he was the 1st black man in his position? So what!