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Please note: This is part 1 of 2 of the Campbell Finding Aid.
Part 2 is the
Box and Folder List.

Collection Title: Campbell (Will D.) Papers

Collection Number: M341

Dates: ca. 1950-2001

Volume:28.8 cubic ft.

Donated by Will D. Campbell

Restrictions: Available for research use by the serious student and scholar.

This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).


Photo of Will Campbell


Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Will Davis Campbell was born on an 80-acre farm in Amite County, Mississippi in 1924. He was the second son born to Lee Webb and Hancie Bea Parker Campbell, and spent his early years in and around the East Fork community in rural Southwest Mississippi. Will graduated from East Fork High School at age sixteen, and was ordained a Baptist minister when he was barely seventeen. He attended Louisiana College, a Baptist College, in Pineville, Louisiana until he enlisted in the Army in 1943.

In the United States Army, Will served in the Southwest Pacific as a surgical assistant in World War II. It was here that he encountered people from other religious and cultural backgrounds, and read a book called Freedom Road that opened his eyes to the growing racial problem that existed in America at the time.

After World War II, Will attended Wake Forest, Tulane, and Yale Universities on the G.I. Bill to complete his education. He accepted a position as Minister of a small Baptist Church in Taylor, Louisiana shortly after graduating from Yale Divinity School in 1952. This was to be his first and only pastorate. Finding the work "too repressive," he resigned his post after eighteen months.

Will became the Director of Religious Activities and Chaplain at the University of Mississippi in 1954. While at Ole Miss, Will was involved in a number of controversies, including "racial mixing," and decided to resign after only two and a half years. He accepted a position with the National Council of Churches, working in race relations.

With the National Council of Churches, he traveled around the South to help wherever he was needed. This work took Will to many "hot spots" of racial confrontation, and it was his job to prevent violence by providing spiritual guidance and counseling to those involved in the controversies. In 1957, Will was one of four people who escorted the "Little Rock 9" when they tried to integrate the high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was also the only white person present at the first meeting (and founding) of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

Feeling that the National Council of Churches was too structured, and beginning to have differing opinions and ideals, Will separated himself from the organization in 1963 to become the Director of the Committee of Southern Churchmen (formerly the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen), where he worked until the late 1970s. The organization was involved in many race-related projects and published a rather liberal periodical called Katallagete that showcased Will's first love-writing.

From the 1960s to the present, Will Campbell has been best known for his writing and lecturing. The author of seventeen books, and numerous articles and sermons, Will Campbell has won the Lillian Smith Book Award, Richard Wright Prize for Literary Excellence, and was a National Book Award Finalist for his most famous work, Brother to a Dragonfly. He received the degree Doctor of Philosophy Honoris Causa from USM on December 17, 1999, becoming only the second person in the history of the institution to receive an honorary degree. Will was also presented the National Humanities Medal by President Clinton in December of 2000.

Will is married to Brenda Fisher, his companion for over 50 years, and they have three children and four grandchildren. At this writing the couple resides on their 50 plus acre farm in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee where Will continues to write and lecture.


Contents of the collection.

Campbell, Will D. An Oral History with Will D. Campbell, Vol. 157, Hattiesburg: University of Southern Mississippi, 1976.

Scope and Content:

This collection is both an eclectic blend of materials from the civil rights era, and the writing materials and manuscripts from one of the South's most notable authors. The materials in the collection should be of use to those who are interested in the civil rights struggle as well as those who want to examine the literary and biographical materials of a successful Mississippi author. The materials in the collection have been divided into thirteen series.

Series one consists of biographical and family materials pertaining to Will Campbell, including letters, articles, awards, and photographs.

Series two is general correspondence to and from Will Campbell from the 1950s to the 1970s. The series is arranged alphabetically by the writer's last name.

Series three contains literary works by Will Campbell and others arranged in articles, essays, short stories, book introductions, papers, poetry, and plays.

Series four holds oral presentations in the form of addresses, sermons, and speeches by Will Campbell and others, plus the speaking engagements of Will Campbell, all o which are arranged alphabetically.

Series five is comprised of printed materials such as bulletins and newsletters, newspaper articles, pamphlets, periodicals, and other publications. These are arranged alphabetically according to type of material and title of the work.

Series six consists of manuscripts of Will Campbell's books. These are arranged alphabetically according to title. Materials used in the writing of the books are grouped with the corresponding manuscript. Reviews and letters from readers are also included.

Series seven contains the documentary film, "God's Will" and the materials used in the making of the film. There are numerous videos with film clips and interviews that are included in this group of materials, as well as the finished documentary.

Series eight holds the materials collected by Will Campbell during his membership in several noteworthy organizations. Included are such organizations as the National Council of Churches, Committee of Southern Churchmen, and the Tennessee Council on Human Relations, as well as several small organizations.

Series nine consists of race-related materials collected by Will Campbell over the years. These materials are grouped into several categories, and are arranged alphabetically.

Series ten is comprised of general subject files. These are arranged alphabetically according to title.

Series eleven is reserved for miscellaneous materials such as incomplete speeches and writings, and notes written by Will Campbell during interviews and engagements. Of particular interest are Will's appointment books, which are arranged chronologically.

Series twelve contains photographs of various subjects, including photos of Will Campbell and photos taken by professional photographer Al Clayton in the 1960s and 1970s.

Series thirteen holds oversize materials such as photographs, newspapers, and other materials.

Other Finding Aids:

Box and Folder List

Photograph Log

Related Collections:

M389 Rose (Stephen C.) Papers

M474 Gwendolyn E. Porter Collection

M324 P. D. East Collection

M338 A.I. and Fay Botnick Civil Rights Collection

M345 Victoria Gray Adams Papers

Accession Number: AM04-7

Dates: ca. 1956 - 2003

Provenance: Will D. Campbell

Volume: .9 cu. ft.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Form of Material:

Correspondence, news clippings, manuscript materials and other items pertaining to the life and work of Will D. Campbell. A Box and Folder List is attached.

Box and Folder List for Accession Number AM04-7

Box 1
Articles (1982, 2002, undated)
Campbell, Clifton (ca. 1913 - 1917)
Campbell, Lee Webb: Scrapbook
Campbell, Will D. (ca. 1976 - 2002)
Correspondence (1984 - 2003)
East Fork Baptist Church, Smithdale, Mississippi (1960, 1986)
Freedom Road, by Howard Fast (1944)
Jennings, Waylon (2000, 2002)
Kershaw, Alvin: Ole Miss Controversy (1956, 2002)
Manuscript: Brother to a Dragonfly - Screenplay
Manuscript: Journey to the House, by Will Campbell
Box 2
Manuscript: Journey to the House, by Will Campbell (copy 2)
Manuscript: Possible Titles, "Three of the Dawn" or "Hope in the Shadows"
Manuscript: Loose Manuscript Materials
Miscellaneous Items (1964 - 2002)
News Clippings (ca. 1999 - 2003)
Speeches (2002, undated)

Accession Number: AM04-30

Dates: 2004

Provenance: Given by Will D. Campbell

Volume: 1 compact disk

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Form of Material:

A compact disk containing 12 songs recorded by Dr. Will D. Campbell, who accompanied himself on the guitar. The songs are a mix of country/western, folk and blues. There are also two narratives by Dr. Campbell titled, Spoken Word. Selections included on the disk are:

  1. Spoken Word
  2. Birds and Children Fly Away
  3. Here Comes That Rainbow Again
  4. Cowboys and Daddies
  5. Sing Me Back Home
  6. Gospel According to Luke
  7. Old Love Turned Memory
  8. Bobby McGee
  9. Amanda
  10. Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine
  11. Everybody Loves a Nut
  12. She Thinks I Still Care
  13. Spoken Word
  14. Mississippi Magic (by Will Campbell)

Accession Number: AM04-36

Dates: 2004

Provenance: Will D. Campbell and the National Endowment for
the Arts, Given by Will D. Campbell

Volume: 2 compact disks

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Form of Material:

  1. A second copy of a compact disk featuring songs performed by Will D. Campbell. The contents of the disk are listed on Accession Sheet Number AM04-30.
  2. A compact disk titled, "Operation Homecoming: Writing the War Experience", generated by the National Endowment for the Arts. The disk is a special audio program featuring Will D. Campbell, Shelby Foote, Barry Hannah, Victor Davis Hanson, Bobbie Ann Mason, Marilyn Nelson, James Salter, Louis Simpson, Richard Wilbur, and Tobias Wolff. The narrator is Dana Gioia.

Accession Number: AM06-37

Dates: circa 1950s - 2006

Provenance: Given by Will D. Campbell

Volume: .25 cu. ft.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Form of Material:

Correspondence, news clippings, publications, and other materials relating to the life and work of Rev. Will D. Campbell. A detailed list is attached hereto.


Will D. Campbell Papers
Container List

Appointment Book (2004)

Articles (1996 – 2004)

Booklet: “Yale Divinity School Class of 1952 Annual Class Letter, 53 rd Edition” (Dec. 2005)

Correspondence (2004 – 2005)

Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts (2004 – 2005)

Interview with Will D. Campbell for “Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1956” (Nov. 3, 1985)

Miscellaneous Items (2006)

Newspaper Clippings (2001; 2004; undated)

Publications Containing Articles by, or about, Will D. Campbell (1988; 2004; 2005; undated)

Speeches and Statements (2006; undated)

Wedding Program: Constance Raelyn Nelson Major and Lonnie Scott Sweeney (June 13, 2004)

Will Campbell’s Sovereignty Commission File (circa 1950s)






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