Brother To A Dragonfly
June 4, 2013 4:46 PM   Subscribe

Will Campbell, the only white person present at the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, friend of Klansmen, and iconoclast preacher, has died at age 88.

I know of him best through his wonderful book, Brother to a Dragonfly (a National Book Award finalist); it's a memoir that intertwines his experiences in the American Civil Rights Movement and his love for his self-destructive brother, Joe. PBS did a documentary on him: God's Will; you might find it of interest. The New York Times obituary has more biographical details.

Here's one quotation from an essay in Writings on Resistance and Reconciliation (more can be found at Inhabitatio Dei:

Early in my life I took a position against racial discrimination, joined Martin Luther King in the formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, walked to school with the Little Rock Nine, and involved myself in the civil rights movement in various ways. In none of this did I think of myself as being on the Left. Others, in the Mississippi of my white rearing, did. The designation was theirs, not mine.

When the Grand Dragon of the North Carolina Ku Klux Klan was indicted and tried for contempt of Congress, I helped raise money for his defense. I was with him the night the marshals came to take him away. I kept in touch with his family, visited him in Danbury prison. I should not have been surprised when some considered that a move to the far Right, even though I also visited others there for crimes of war resistance. I saw no inconsistency since neither Isaiah nor Jesus said anything about ideology. Prisoners are prisoners and it is our vocation to set them free.
posted by willF (10 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
posted by asperity at 4:59 PM on June 4, 2013

posted by 4ster at 5:02 PM on June 4, 2013

posted by jonmc at 5:23 PM on June 4, 2013

posted by Area Man at 5:49 PM on June 4, 2013

I met him once or twice. Good, kind man. Blessed are the peacemakers.
posted by homerica at 5:58 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

posted by lord_wolf at 6:07 PM on June 4, 2013

Yeah, that Rolling Stone piece is pretty mindblowing, pretty sure it's been on the blue before. From the NYT obit linked above-
Followers and friends called Mr. Campbell hilarious, profound, inspiring and apocalyptic, a guitar-picking, down-home country boy who made moonshine and stomped around his Tennessee cabin in cowboy boots and denim uttering streams of sacred and profane commentary that found their way into books, articles, lectures and sermons.
idk if the NYT is exoticising him a little there- 'stomped around in cowboy boots and denim'! - but fuck if getting called 'hilarious, profound, inspiring and apocalyptic' doesn't sound like a good life goal from here.

posted by hap_hazard at 7:17 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:45 PM on June 4, 2013

Brave man, scary time.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:59 PM on June 4, 2013

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