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N.C. native brings focus to schools
Campbell helped start first schools for blacks
W VAlarie
Valarie Thompson

       In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Bulloch County was suffering wounds that desperately needed to be healed. Former slaves and children of former slaves faced new "freedom." George Franklin Campbell used his voice and helping hand to reach out to African Americans in Bulloch.
      George Campbell was born in Whitesville, N.C., in 1872. He proved to be hard working even at a young age by working on a turpentine farm in North Carolina. Campbell was later transferred to the T.R. Bryan Company in Nellwood, Ga., which is present day Brooklet. The transfer would give him a foundation for a life long mission to help others. The time at the turpentine farm also allowed for lifelong friendships and an acquaintanceship with the love of his life, Ida Fore. He and Ida married in 1890 and the two raised 13 children.
      Although the job only paid 50 cents per day, Campbell saved enough money to buy a Model-T Ford. He was the first African-American in the community to purchase the premier automobile. There were few in the area who even had the luxury of owning a vehicle. Campbell realized this and provided a taxi service for the locals with his Model-T.
    He stood out as a worker at the firm and set out to have his own farm and land. The determination led him to place a down payment on 125 acres of land located near present day Southeast Bulloch High. With a rate of $10 per acre, T.R. Bryan paid for the land and built the family a home. Campbell diligently worked to pay off the debt little by little.
     Campbell found a deeper purpose for his goodwill through the doors of the church. He became the chairman of the executive board of the Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Association and served in the position for more than 30 years. Rev. W. Gilmore saw Campbell's effect on the black community and asked him to help organize the Free and Accepted Masons in Nellwood. The men reached out even further and provided assistance to farmers in hardships by harvesting and plowing their farms.
      Campbell was committed to education of the youth, but African American children were not given an equal opportunity. Gilmore used the inequality as motivation and requested Campbell's assistance to begin schools across the county. The three schools were located at Pretorius Station, Hutchinson Longstreet, and Little Bethel. The success of the schools was felt instantly, and Campbell wanted to reach out even further.
     Campbell found a way to teach blacks of the community how to manage their money while simultaneously raising money to build another school. He requested the help of William James and others to begin the Christmas Savings Club in Brooklet. They enlightened the community about personal savings, holding fish fries and cake suppers to spread the message. Money raised through these events gave Campbell the foundation to build Grimshaw Public School (Little Red School House) in Brooklet.
      "The school was wonderful and had great Christian values," said Mrs. Francis Thompson of Denmark.
       Mrs. Thompson who attended Grimshaw, rode her bike and walked to the school. George Campbell also ensured that each of his thirteen children completed school.
      On April 30, 1938, Campbell joined other African-American community leaders and organized Little Bethel Baptist Church. He took great pride in the church and served as the first chairman of the deacon board. He sold his farm that same year and moved to Roundtree Street in Statesboro. Campbell served his new community for years before his death in November 1947.
      His son, R.W. Campbell, followed his father's example with successful careers as a teacher and chairman of the board of deacons at Little Bethel. George Franklin Campbell may not be a well-known name, but the message he stood behind made a lasting effect on Bulloch County.
      As Campbell often said, "As you climb the ladder to success, remember those you passed along the way up. They will be the first ones to catch you if you fall."

      Valarie Thompson is senior class president at Southeast Bulloch High School.

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