Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

A Letter From a Hero

A letter from Will D. Campbell surfaces after many years in a drawer

The staff at Humanities Tennessee is preparing to move to new offices, and fresh treasures keep turning up every time someone opens an old file drawer. One of them is an undated letter sent by Will D. Campbell, civil-rights activist and author of Brother to a Dragonfly, when he was invited to join the Humanities Tennessee’s board, and it’s just too beautiful not to share. Asked to send a CV, he responded:

I’m not being modest, don’t have a case of the cutesies I think, but I’ve never had occasion to claim any accomplishments which struck me as being worth writing down and mailing out. I’ve been a Baptist preacher most of my life, served in the army, went to college and seminary, now run a little thing called the Committee of Southern Churchmen, have a wife and three children, will be a grandfather soon, was born and raised in Mississippi, lived in Tennessee since 1956, was semi-active in the Civil Rights Movement, have written some things which critics said nice things about but folks who buy books didn’t exactly rave over, have a number of dear friends in Chattanooga, have never felt that I got a fair shake from insurance companies, chew tobacco and sometimes drink too much, love and fear the Lord, live on a small farm which helps me to cheat on my income taxes, and, I think, know quite a few folks in Tennessee who try to do things which I think are worthwhile and fit within the framework of the National Endowment for the Humanities. I’ll do what I can.

Read the whole letter here.

For more about Will Campbell, don’t miss the late John Egerton’s eulogy for his old friend here.