Rev. Will D. Campbell, escort for the Nine, dies | Arkansas Blog

Rev. Will D. Campbell, escort for the Nine, dies

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Will D. Campbell, in a still from Gods Will
  • Will D. Campbell, in a still from "God's Will"


The Rev. Will D. Campbell, 88, who with four other members of the National Council of Churches escorted the Little Rock Nine to Central only to be turned back by the mob, died Monday. The New York Times obituary described Campbell as "a renegade preacher and author who joined the civil rights struggle in the 1950s, quit organized religion and fought injustice with nonviolent protests and a storyteller’s arsenal of autobiographical tales and fictional histories."

From the Times:

In 1961, he counseled and accompanied Freedom Riders of the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who integrated interstate bus travel at the cost of beatings by white mobs in Anniston, Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala.

And in 1963, he joined Dr. King’s campaign of boycotts, sit-ins and marches in Birmingham, one of America’s most segregated cities. In scenes that stunned the nation, protesters were met with snarling police dogs and high-pressure water hoses.

“If it hits you right, the pressure from a fire hose can break your back,” Mr. Campbell said years later. “I remember seeing adults and children hit and rolling along the sidewalk like pebbles at high tide.”


Campbell wrote the introduction to photographer Will Counts' "A Life is More than a Moment," which included essays by Ernie Dumas and Bob McCord.

In this "God's Will" video about Campbell, footage of the mobs at Central High in 1957 can be seen at about the 25 minute mark.

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