Ex-auditor Campbell praised as 'gift' to NC
Posted January 15, 2011 12:01 p.m. EST
Updated January 15, 2011 11:04 p.m. EST
RALEIGH, N.C. — Colleagues and family paid tribute to Ralph Campbell Jr., the first black person to be elected to statewide political office in North Carolina, during his funeral Saturday.
Campbell, 64, died Tuesday after a battle with lung cancer.
Campbell was part of a prominent Raleigh family of civil rights activists. He served six years on the Raleigh City Council before being elected state auditor in 1992. He served three terms as auditor.
"He was a gift to the people of North Carolina," said Gov. Beverly Perdue, who was the first to speak at the funeral in St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Raleigh. "We, from Murphy to Manteo, have felt his love and care for the people of North Carolina."
She said that Campbell came from a "legacy family." His parents, community activists Ralph Campbell Sr. and June Campbell, enrolled his younger brother Bill as the first black student in integrated Raleigh public schools in 1960.
"They have dared to do the unthinkable," Perdue said.
As a city councilman, Campbell's attention to detail helped make Raleigh a more beautiful place, Mayor Charles Meeker said. He took an interest in issues from building parks in southeast Raleigh and renovating Murphey Elementary School to regulating signs at fast-food restaurant.
"Part of the attractive appearance we have in Raleigh is thanks to his interest" in these issues, Meeker said.
Perdue also remembered Campbell as a personal friend, who helped her after her divorce 16 years ago.
"He helped me and my two sons pick up the pieces of our lives. That's the kind of friend Ralph Campbell was to us," Perdue said.
Campbell was a fun-loving man who cracked jokes when things got too serious and very much enjoyed driving his black Thunderbird convertible – sometimes a little too fast, friends recalled.
Perdue bet that Campbell was already having a good time in heaven.
"He's up there sitting on a big cloud, demanding that they sing a song and tell a joke. It's a day full of praise," she said.
U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, state NAACP President Rev. William Barber and former Wake County Commissioner Harold Webb, among others, also spoke at the funeral. U.S. Reps. David Price and Brad Miller were in attendance.
Campbell was buried at Carolina Biblical Gardens in Garner. He laid in repose at the State Capitol building Friday, and state flags are being flown at half-mast in his honor until Tuesday.