Will Campbell died on June 3, 2013. Campbell was an active participant in the civil rights movement, Baptist preacher, and author. He described himself as a "bootleg preacher." Campbell "helped escort nine African-American students through mobs opposed to the desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas." Campbell very early became a preacher without a church because of his involvement with integration. He was a friend of country singers and even toured with them as their chaplain.
Campbell was born in Amite County, Miss. I think his home was near to Jerry Clower, a famous Christian comedian. He was educated at Wake Forest University and Yale Divinity School. He was a pastor for a short time in Louisiana before he decided that God was calling him to a different ministry. Campbell said, "Either the steeples weren't ready for me or I wasn't ready for the steeples." He took a job as director of religious life at the university of Mississippi but stayed only for two years because "his support for racial integration drew hostility." He later worked for the National Council of Churches. He left the NCC in 1963 to become the Director of the Committee of Southern Churchmen. He would later move to Nashville where he spent the rest of his days on a small farm.
Campbell has written many books which I have enjoyed. My favorite book is probably, Brother to a Dragonfly. The book is autobiographical describing his relationship to his brother. It was nominated for the National Book Award. It is a great book. It describes how his brother got hooked on pain killers and the struggle to get off of them. My second favorite book is Glad River. This book is fiction. It is the story of three men and their journey to baptism. A third book I would recommend is Cecilia"s Sin. It is a fictional story of the Anabaptists and how they endured persecution and death. Another good book by Campbell is The Covention: A Parable, a fictional portrayal of the moderate-fundamentalist controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Will D. Campbell was a unique individual. He became a preacher at a young age. He continued to be a preacher without a church most of his life. The major theme in his life was grace. He believed God's grace was offered to all people. It didn't matter their race, gender, past, or any other barrier that would prevent them from accepting the gospel. He believed that the ground is level at the cross. We are all God's children through the blood of Christ.