John C. Campbell

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John Charles Campbell (September 14, 1867 – May 2, 1919) was an American educator and social reformer noted for his survey of social conditions in the southern Appalachian region of the United States during the early decades of the 20th century. He served as the second president of Piedmont College from 1904 to 1907 and his educational research was supported by the Russell Sage Foundation and General Education Fund between 1907 and his death.

Family History

Campbell was the son of Gavin and Anna Barbara Campbell. He was born in Le Porte, Indiana and grew up in Steven's Point, Wisconsin. He studied education and theology in New England where he graduated from Williams College in 1892 and received a bachelor of divinity degree from Andover Theological Seminary in 1895.[2] Campbell married first wife, Grace H. Buckingham, in 1895. She died in 1905. In 1907 he married Olive A. Dame, a folklorist from West Medford, Massachusetts. They had no children.

Employment and Career History

Campbell accepting a post as principal of an academy in the mountains of northeast Alabama between 1895 and1898. The following year he served as a teacher in the Stevens Point Wisconsin public schools, 1898-9. In 1900, he became principal of another mountain academy in east Tennessee, and served as superintendent of secondary education, dean and president at Piedmont College between 1901 and 1907. The Campbells traveled in Sicily and italy in 1907-8. He was funded by the newly formed Russell Sage Foundation, from 1908 until his death in 1919. John C. Campbell died May 2, 1919 of heart failure at the Hotel Latham in New York City.

Initial support for Campbell from the newly formed Russell Sage Foundation included funding for outfitted a horse-drawn wagon to serve as mobile housing where the Campbells lived for part of each year traveling through rural Appalachia as he interviewed working people, particularly farmers and she conducted research on Appalachian ballads and their connection with English traditional music.[3]

In June, 1914 Campbell requested one month’s funding and proposed to use his annual vacation for a second month for a study trip to Denmark to study Danish Folk Schools and agricultural cooperatives there. His plan was approved in July, and the Campbells were planning to sail for Denmark on August 12, 1914 but the trip was cancelled because of the outbreak of World War I on August 1 of that year. (RSF Papers, IV4B1.3, Box 16, Folder 134)

Between 1901 and 1910 or later, the Campbell’s maintained a home in Demorest, GA, where John C. had been President of Piedmont College. After 1907 when he went to work for the Russell Sage Foundation, that location also served as headquarters of the RSF Southern Highlands Division. Some time between 1910 and 1914, the Campbells left their home in Georgia and moved to Asheville, North Carolina. In November, 1914, RSF was reporting that Campbell had relocated the Southern Highland Division office to 412 Legal Building in Asheville.

Thanks in large part to their Russell Sage Foundation support, the Campbells are generally acknowledged as the founders of contemporary Appalachian studies. Campbell’s reports to the Russell Sage Foundation and the General Education Fund are focused on two primary topics: General social conditions in the “southern mountains”; the area now known as Southern Appalachia, and the organization and operations of church-related social work in the region.

In the 35 years after John C. Campbell's death, Edith Dame Campbell established a formidable reputation of her own as a folklorist, Appalachian scholar and educational reformer.