Campbell and Ralph Abernathy comfort one another in Memphis following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.


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Part 1
Part 2
Part 2


Warren states the date as Feb. 13 in this recording, but it appears that a label on the tape held in Yale's Historical Sound Recordings collection gives the date as Feb. 14.

Audio Note: Campbell is, at times, fairly faint during the interview, but his voice is much more audible than the transcripts make it appear.

Will Campbell head shot courtesy of McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi.

Image of Will Campbell and Ralph Abernathy from Getty Images, photo credit: Henry Groskinsky.

Audio courtesy of Yale University.

Will D. Campbell

Feb. 13 or 14 [1964]
Related Documents: 
Will D. Campbell
Will D. Campbell Bio

Will D. Campbell (1924-2013) was a Baptist minister, author, and civil rights activist. After receiving degrees from Wake Forest University and Yale Divinity School, Campbell briefly served as a minister in Taylor, Louisiana, before becoming director of religious activities and chaplain at the University of Mississippi. Campbell served in that capacity from 1954 to 1956, resigning because of hostility toward his support of the civil rights movement. Campbell began working for the National Council of Churches in 1957, in which position he was one of four people who escorted the “Little Rock Nine” into Little Rock's Central High School. He was also the only white person to attend the founding of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He directed the Committee of Southern Churchmen from 1963 to the late 1970s. Campbell authored many books, including Brother to a Dragonfly, which won the Lillian Smith Prize, the Christopher Award, and a National Book Award nomination.


Campbell discusses the views of University of Mississippi students concerning desegregation, and he also considers the recent trials of Byron De La Beckwith for the murder of Medgar Evers and of Elmer Otis Kimbell for the murder of Clinton Melton. Campbell describes the growing power of the White Citizens Council and its talent for expressing opinions that are impossible to disprove. Campbell discusses the recent gubernatorial election in Mississippi, efforts to register African American voters, and the possibility of electing black legislators. Campbell discusses the social reformers who he claims are working "as buffers" between white people and African Americans who espouse more militant tactics. Campbell also discusses anti-white sentiment among African Americans and the possibility that African American leaders will gravitate more toward violence. He also considers the extent to which disagreements between white and black southerners might constitute a mutual recognition of humanity. Campbell discusses busing as a solution to segregated schools, the role he believes churches should play in resolving racial conflict, and the additional work that colleges and universities could do to prepare rural African Americans in the South to be leaders. Campbell and Warren discuss the nature of prejudice, consider African Americans who have embraced Islam, and describe how southerners perpetuate prejudice. Campbell ends the conversation by returning to issues of Christian theology, race, and social action.


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