Friday, March 02, 2007

Mrs. Lucie E. Campbell-Williams (1855-1963), pioneer composer in African-American music


In 1855, Lucie Eddie Campbell, the youngest of nine children, was born to Burrell and Isabella (Wilkerson) Campbell in Duck Hill, Mississippi. Burrell Campbell worked for the Mississippi Central Railroad (later purchased by the Illinois Central Railroad), and Isabella worked as a cook. Shortly after Lucie's birth, Burrell Campbell was killed in a train accident. Being the sole provider for and caretaker of her nine children, Isabella moved to Memphis, Tennessee.

Isabella Campbell not only wanted her children to receive an education, she also wanted them exposed to the performing arts. She elected to give piano lessons to Lora, Lucie's older sister. While piano lessons were being given to Lora, Lucie listened attentively and practiced the lessons on her own.

Lucie Campbell was educated in the public schools of Memphis. In 1899, she was graduated from Kortrecht High School (later Booker T. Washington) as valedictorian of her class and was awarded the highest prize for her Latin proficiency. After completing high school, Lucie passed the teachers' exam and began her teaching career at Carnes Avenue Grammar School. In 1911, she was transferred to Kortrecht High School, where she taught American history and English. Later, she earned the baccalaureate degree from Rust College in Holy Springs, Mississippi, and the master's degree from Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State College.

At age nineteen, Campbell organized a group of Beale Street musicians into the Music Club. Other members later were added to form a thousand-voice choir that performed at the National Baptist Convention. At the organizational meeting of the National Sunday and Baptist Training Union Congress held in Memphis in 1915, "Miss Lucie" was elected as Music Director. She penned songs for the Congress and wrote musical pageants exhorting the young to give their lives to Christian service. In addition to writing religious music for the Congress, she also wrote the Congress' study lessons, as well as other instructional materials.

In 1919, Lucie E. Campbell published her first song, Something Within, which was followed by more than one hundred others, including The Lord is My Shepherd, Heavenly Sunshine, The King's Highway, Touch Me Lord Jesus, and He Understands, He'll Say Well Done. Campbell also introduced promising young musicians such as Marian Anderson and J. Robert Bradley to the world. "Miss Lucie" introduced Marian Anderson to the National Baptist Convention and served as her accompanist. In 1955, Miss Lucie's loyalty and dedication to the Baptist Sunday School and Baptist Training Union Congress was recognized when she was named as one of the principal lecturers during the 50th Anniversary Session held in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

In 1946, she was named to the National Policy Planning Commission of the National Education Association. She was elected vice president of the American Teachers Association and from 1941 to 1946 she served as president of the Tennessee Teachers Association.

Lucie E.. Campbell was an activist for civil justice. She defied the "Jim Crow" streetcar laws when she refused to relinquish her seat in the section reserved for whites, and as president of the Negro Education Association she struggled with governmental officials to redress the inequities in the pay scale and other benefits for Negro teachers.

On January 14, 1960, Lucie Eddie Campbell married her life-long companion, the Reverend C. R. Williams. The marriage ceremony took place in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Zack Brown in Memphis. As an expression of her love and respect for her friend, business partner, and companion, Lucie Eddie Campbell-Williams dedicated her song, They That Wait Upon the Lord, to her husband.

The National Sunday School and the Baptist Training Union Congress of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., showed its appreciation to its "first lady of music" when it declared June 20, 1962, as Lucie E. Campbell Appreciation Day. While preparing to attend the celebration and banquet held in her honor, Campbell-Williams suddenly became gravely ill and was rushed to the hospital.

After a six-months' bout with illness, Lucie Eddie Campbell-Williams died on January 3, 1963, in Nashville. Her body was conveyed to Memphis and funeral services were held on January 7th at the Mount Nebo Baptist Church by pastor Dr. Roy Love. She was interred in the Mount Carmel Cemetery.

Linda T. Wynn


shanta said...

i go to lucie e.campbell in memephis tn it is a wonderful school an thank you for it i relly like it even doe you not here your sole is still with this wonderful school so thank you an may god blees.

Jackabug said...

It's good that you linked to & gave credit to the photographer who put up the promo image for the school... but you should really credit Wikipedia for the text of the article about Lucie Campbell, too. Wikipedia articles are Creative-Commons licensed, not public domain, so the attribution should always be included.

Otherwise someone might think you were deliberately plagiarizing Wikipedia, which is a pretty embarrassing gaffe to be caught making! ;)