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The Historical Mark Elizabeth P. Campbell Has Left on Her Community in Northern Virginia.

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A historical marker is made with the purpose of reminding a community of a certain event or a significant individual in the community who has made a difference in the life of others. It is important to establish a historical marker for an individual who has dedicated their life to serve the community with respect to how that individual would wish to be remembered. Remembering an individual of great value is the least we can do as society to honor them and keep their memory alive for future generations. This research will discuss the remarkable mark Elizabeth P. Campbell has left on the lives of many individuals where she dedicated her career to help students seek education despite their race and social background. Campbell’s historical marker does not give her enough credit because what she did for her community was far beyond what was mentioned in the marker. As historians, we must ask whether this is how Campbell should be remembered? If an African American individual happened to walk by her marker, how would that individual know about her efforts against segregating Arlington’s public schools in the 1950s. Campbell is one of the many individuals that stood up against the system risking their jobs in order for students to get an education without being discriminated against. Individuals like Campbell can bring people together and inspire others to stand up for their values and what they believe is right to build a stronger generation.

Elizabeth P. Campbell Historical Marker in Arlington, Virginia.6
A portrait of Elizabeth P. Campbell.8

Margaret Elizabeth Pfohl Campbell was born in December 1902 in Salem, North Carolina. Campbell’s father was a Moravian minister at the Moravian Church and a her mother worked as a music teacher. The Moravian Church admitted men only which redirected Campbell into seeking education at Salem College where she earned her bachelor’s degree, and completed her master’s degree at Columbia University. Following her graduation she served some years teaching college level courses at Salem academy. Following few years of teaching, Campbell landed a job as dean of women at Moravian College for Women in Pennsylvania. After serving two years as dean at Moravian College for Women, Campbell left and became the dean of Mary Baldwin College, in Staunton, from 1929 to 1936. In 1936 she married Edmund Campbell, a successful trial lawyer and the son of Mary Baldwin University’s Board of Trustees Chair H.D. Campbell.4

A photograph of Elizabeth and Edmund Campbell, 1963.8
A voting card with a guide on which school board candidates to vote for in the 1947 election, and on the back it had the names of the candidates.2

In 1947, Elizabeth Campbell wanted to help build a better school system so she decided to be part of the administration where decisions were made. Campbell won election and became the first female to be elected to serve in the Arlington School Board. In 1951, Campbell was reelected where she served a total of eight years, and during her time as a member on the board, she worked to provide students with high quality education.7

A document with a list of names, addresses, and occupations of members in the “Committee To Study Problems Of Integration In The Arlington Public Schools”. Members were appointed by Mrs. Elizabeth P. Campbell, Chairman, Arlington School Board, and T. Edward Hunter, Superintendent Of Schools.5

Elizabeth Campbell dedicated much of her time in order to help desegregate Arlington Public Schools and organized board meetings in the hopes of making a change following decisions made by the Supreme Court’s in the Brown v. Board of Education (1954-1955). Despite the Supreme court’s verdict, Elizabeth Campbell made it possible for many African American students to integrate into white schools and continue their education. However, a huge resistance movement against desegregation made by senators and white parents who did not want to integrate their children with non-white students. As result, the resistance influenced the state to implement laws preventing Arlington residents from voting to elect Public Schools Board Members and chose to close down schools instead of allowing them to integrate. Campbell broke the new law and allowed African American students to stay in the schools and continue their education. Consequently, Elizabeth Campbell was removed from the school board due to her strong stance against segregation and her belief in justice and equality for all students. Elizabeth and Edmund Campbell made it their mission to enable African American students to integrate and get proper education.8

The New York Times Journal honoring Edmund Campbell life and his victory against segregation in Arlington, Virginia. This was published three days after Edmund Campbell had passed away on December 7, 1995.11

Both Elizabeth and Edmund Campbell worked together to ensure all students get the education they deserve despite their race. The couple used their voice and social status to serve the public and be of use for their community. Elizabeth and Edmund Campbell were highly involved in the legal and political fight against the discrimination towards people of color and worked with students’ parents to ensure a better future for all students. In Fact, Byrd Organization made the decision to close schools that were in the process of integrating based on the request of many parents who did not support desegregation. Elizabeth’s husband, Edmund Campbell represented students’ parents against the Byrd Organization where the parents argued that their children were unable to go to school and continue their education due to this decision.

Eventually, Edmund Campbell won the case against the massive resistance organization and those students were allowed to proceed with their academics, and when Edmund Campbell was asked about this case he said “I could not live with myself if I did not stand up publicly for what I knew was right”.8 Edmund’s victory in the case against the resistance changed the lives of many students and enabled his wife, Elizabeth Campbell to regain her seat at the School Board where she served for two terms. Elizabeth Campbell served as a member of the Public School Board of Arlington having her students’ best interest in mind and established many programs that helped students advance their academic future.9

Alice Letzler’s who is an Arlington Committee Secretary wrote a tribute letter in appreciation of Elizabeth Campbell and Bernard Joy for their service on the Arlington School Board.1

Elizabeth Campbell’s two terms as a member of the School Board were full with accomplishments where she helped raised salaries for the teachers, incorporated fine arts classes and other electives that intrigued students’ interest, and focused her efforts into building more schools in the city of Arlington. In March 1961, Campbell testified before a subcommittee within the Senate supporting the Magnuson bill, to give each state and its districts $1 million to fund educational programs. In addition, Elizabeth Campbell worked diligently with parents to set their kids on the right academic track.4

In 1953, the FCC provided each state and the District of Columbia a noncommercial TV channel UHF that can be used for educational purposes. In 1957, Campbell joined the Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association (GWETA), as executive president where she rebuilt the station to what it is now. Campbell had the vision that education can extend beyond the classroom and wanted to encourage students to seek information to learn and educate themselves. Elizabeth Campbell helped fund the Washington Educational Television Association because she strongly believed that TV can be a great educational tool for students to not only succeed academically but to encourage them to learn beyond school’s curriculum.3

Elizabeth Campbell and her colleagues at WETA in late 1950s.8

WETA was the first public TV station to air educational content in Washington, DC. Campbell was not interested in advertising to obtain funding for WETA. Instead, Campbell presented WETA to high value individuals who were interested in funding such programs and relied on local funding programs. During her years at WETA, Campbell organized many televised programs and courses in French, mathematics, sciences, music, art, language and geography. Campbell recruited local teachers from public schools to teach in these televised courses. WETA currently has a $40 million estimated budget and it became the third-largest producer of programs for the Public Broadcasting Service.3

“Time fo Science” a show Aired on WETA, from Fall 1958 to June 1961.10

Campbell’s goal behind WETA was never related to money and success, Campbell drove WETA with the intentions of building a stronger generation that is capable of achieving their academic dreams. Following many years as the president of WETA, Campbell stepped down to be the vice president instead and ever since she joined the station, Campbell has never received a salary for her work as she chose to serve the station for free. Campbell worked as vice president at WETA until she passed away in 2004, according to Bruncsak, a staff member at WETA who gave an interview for the Washington Post regarding Campbell “I had thought it was remarkable that she still came in [to work] and she was still active, but — I hate to say it — I still had preconceptions about old people as feeble or close-minded. But every time I would talk with her — man! — she was always with it. She has her fingers on the pulse of the station”.4

Campbell became a member of the board of directors of Arlington Community Television in 1982, where she helped make set of tapes known as “Communicating Survival”, these tapes were translated to several languages to enable non-English speakers communicate basic English. These tapes were not only used for Arlington residents but was used by other states to help non-English speakers learn English. Communicating Survival tapes helped non-English speakers learn how to search for job opportunities, use the bank, how to shop, how to utilize social services that is available for them, and understand the state laws they must follow. Campbell was 80 years old at the time she helped produce these tapes which showed her devotion towards helping others and how committed she was to enrich the lives of others in her community.

In an interview by The Washington Post on Campbell’s life, Rebecca Leet, who helped Campbell make the Communicating Survival tapes mentioned the following about Elizabeth Campbell ” She has a tremendous amount of humility and a surprising lack of ego in the sense that she doesn’t need to be the person who is seen as having achieved something. She doesn’t seek personal power or personal glory, but seeks what she thinks needs to be done, to help the people of whatever cause she’s involved with…”.4

Elizabeth Campbell holding her Emmy in 1981.8

Many association recognized Elizabeth Campbell’s incredible commitment towards helping individuals in her community and has been awarded for her remarkable work through the years. In 1981, Campbell received an Emmy, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Board of Governors Award. Also, In 1987, she was one the 12 individuals who received the first Silver Circle awards from the Washington Chapter of NATAS.7

Elizabeth Campbell’s life was driven by passion and enthusiasm for helping others and building a better future for the youth in her community. Campbell not only served and fought for students’ rights in Arlington, but she worked all these years with nothing in return in order to help students succeed. Campbell used her voice and privilege to benefit her community even when she lost her job as a consequence and stood up for what was right. It is important to mention that Elizabeth Campbell was not able to become a minister like her father but was fortunate enough to have received an education. Campbell used her education to help construct a better education system for students in Arlington, Virginia, one that does not discriminate against skin color or social background. Elizabeth Campbell led an outstanding career and should be remembered for her achievements as an individual who cared for others no matter where they came from. Her work not only inspires females but motivates individuals despite their gender, race, and social background, to stand for what they believe in and help others succeed because only this way we can build a stronger community.

“Don’t look backward or clutter up your life with regrets and resentments. Put into your work all that you have of interest, enthusiasm, hope, faith, determination and love.”9

Elizabeth P. Campbell

Bibliography

  1. Arlington Public Library Center for Local History : Text : 1964 Alice Letzler speech for breakfast honoring Campbell and joy [R19-6-3-1-040]. Accessed December 8, 2021. https://libraryarchives.arlingtonva.us/Detail/objects/3429.
  2. Arlington Public Library Center for Local History : Text : 1947 Arlington County School Board election guided ballot [R19-1-6-1-1_001-002]. Accessed December 8, 2021. https://libraryarchives.arlingtonva.us/Detail/objects/3431.
  3. Brennan, Patricia. “Weta’s Guiding Light.” The Washington Post. WP Company, December 12, 1999. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/tv/1999/12/12/wetas-guiding-light/7025e2b7-b97d-4187-8373-035baef6b8c9/.
  4. Brennan, Patricia. “Elizabeth Pfohl Campbell.” The Washington Post. WP Company, October 22, 1989. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/tv/1989/10/22/elizabeth-pfohl-campbell/6331817f-038c-47b0-9168-9bedafd5e09d/.
  5. “Committee to Study Problems of Integration in the Arlington Public Schools, Appointed June 12, 1954 by Mrs. Elizabeth P. Campbell, Chairman, Arlington School Board, and T. Edward Hunter, Superintendent of Schools.” Project DAPS. Accessed December 8, 2021. http://projectdaps.org/items/show/1919.
  6. Department of Historic Resources. Accessed December 8, 2021. https://vcris.dhr.virginia.gov/HistoricMarkers/.
  7. “Elizabeth Pfohl Campbell · Virginia Changemakers.” Omeka RSS. Accessed December 8, 2021. https://edu.lva.virginia.gov/changemakers/items/show/161.
  8. “Elizabeth and Edmund Campbell.” WETA. Accessed December 8, 2021. https://weta.org/about/history/elizabeth-edmund-campbell.
  9. “Former Dean Dies at 101.” Mary Baldwin University, October 2, 2018. https://marybaldwin.edu/news/2004/01/14/former-dean-dies-at-101/.
  10. Kidshow, Kaptain. Time for science at kidshow.dcmemories.com. Accessed December 8, 2021. http://kidshow.dcmemories.com/tisci.html.
  11. Pace, Eric. “E.D. Campbell, 96, Champion of Integration.” The New York Times. The New York Times, December 10, 1995. https://www.nytimes.com/1995/12/10/us/ed-campbell-96-champion-of-integration.html.

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