Will D. Campbell ’52 B.D.

Upon graduation from Yale Divinity School, Rev. Will Campbell became pastor of the Taylor Southern Baptist Church in Taylor, La., and the Director of Religious Life and Chaplain at the University of Mississippi. In 1956, he took over leadership of the Southern Project in the Department of Racial and Cultural Relations of the National Council of Churches. From 1962 to 1986 he was Executive Director of the Committee of Southern Churchmen.

An ardent voice against racism, he was among only four white ministers to escort nine African American students through angry mobs during school desegregation in Little Rock, Ark., and he was the only white person present at the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. However, he also ministered to members of the Ku Klux Klan and made a prison visit to James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of his colleague and friend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Campbell wrote 17 books in addition to numerous articles in journals and magazines. His first book, published in 1962, was Race and the Renewal of the Church. His 1977 book Brother to a Dragonfly, which chronicles the civil rights movement, was a National Book Award finalist. President Clinton honored Campbell with a Presidential Humanities Medal in 2000, and he was given lifetime achievement awards from the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and the Tennessee chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

In 2007 Campbell was awarded the Yale Divinity School William Sloane Coffin ‘56 Award for Peace and Justice. Campbell died in 2013 at the age of 88.