Photo by Elizabeth Dranitzke

Francis Campbell

The family of Francis Campbell, a Capitol Hill native, has been here since the 1920s. He was interviewed when he received the 2013 Community Achievement Award.

A native Washingtonian and native Capitol Hill resident, Francis Campbell's roots are deep in this community. His grandparents first bought their house on B Street NE (later to be Constitution Avenue NE) in the 1920s and even today he has many relatives living nearby. He was interviewed by Stephanie Deutsch in January, 2013, in preparation for his receiving the Community Achievement Award. In this interview, he discusses details of his life history, family, and his many years of service representing his neighborhood as an ANC 6B Commissioner, with special attention to his chairmanship of the ANC's Planning and Zoning committee.

Read Transcript
Interview Date
January 30, 2013
Stephanie Deutsch
David MacKinnon

Full Directory

DEUTSCH: This is Stephanie Deutsch with Francis Campbell on January 30th, 2013. Francis, can you say something?
CAMPBELL: This is Francis Campbell, January 30th. Month’s almost over.
DEUTSCH: Well that looks like it’s working. Why don’t you start by telling me where you grew up?
CAMPBELL: I grew up—actually I was born and raised here in DC.
DEUTSCH: I was born in DC too. [Campbell laughs] We’re unusual.
CAMPBELL: Born in the old Freedman’s Hospital.
DEUTSCH: Over where X Park is?
CAMPBELL: No, no, that was Providence. Freedman’s is basically where Howard University Hospital is now—where old Griffith’s Stadium was. So it was just off to the right of that. And the building’s no longer there, but grew up here in Southeast. Pretty much lived in DC all my life except when I went to California for a short stint and back to DC. So, South Carolina Avenue—the old B Street is where my parents grew up.
DEUTSCH: When did they change the name from B Street?
CAMPBELL: I’m not certain. It was—let’s see, my grandmother bought that house back in the—let’s see, I think around 1927. And so it’s been in my family since then. It was B Street then and somewhere along I think around the 50s it became Constitution Avenue. And I don’t remember the particulars. My sister is the one who has gone back through all of that and I have the notes at home, so …
DEUTSCH: Are you still in that house?
CAMPBELL: No, no, we’re in my own house but my family still owns that house. I have a—let’s see, a second or third cousin who’s in that house now.
DEUTSCH: So you have deep, deep roots in this neighborhood?
CAMPBELL: Yes we do. Pretty much all my family lives on the Hill. My sister’s in the house that my uncle grew up in. That we were young kids then. My other sister owns a house that we grew up in on South Carolina Avenue. My mom is still in the house on North Carolina Avenue. I’m on Burke Street [SE].
DEUTSCH: Which street are you on?
CAMPBELL: I’m on Burke, 1800 Burke Street. I’ve a sister and brother over in Ward 7—one on N Street and another one on Bangor Street.
DEUTSCH: I hope some of them are going to be coming to the dinner.
CAMPBELL: It depends on how finances are. I mean obviously, so …
DEUTSCH: We’d love to have them. So, you grew up in the house—which house?
CAMPBELL: I grew up in, let’s see, we grew up in 1424 Independence Avenue [SE]. My parents moved to 1349 South Carolina Avenue [SE] when I was—in 1961.
DEUTSCH: What did your parents do?
CAMPBELL: My dad was a supervisor at the Post Office. My mom worked for HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] in financing. And a matter of fact she just retired last year after 53 years in the government. So she just retired. And then I was in that house until, South Carolina Avenue, until I was 17 when my parents moved to North Carolina Avenue and bought another house there. And then I was in that house until I bought my house in ’77 on Burke Street.
DEUTSCH: So which schools did you go to?
CAMPBELL: Started out at Payne. Went to Payne [14th and C Streets, SE] until the fourth grade. I mean the third grade. And then went to St. Cyprian which was right across the street from Hine [Junior High School now closed] at Eighth and C [Streets SE].
DEUTSCH: Oh was it? I didn’t realize that.
CAMPBELL: Yes. It’s where those homes that was—St. Cyprian sat up on a promontory and it was a three story building. The nuns lived themselves on the third floor.
DEUTSCH: Really?
CAMPBELL: Yes the playground was there. So that whole corner from Eighth and C to the alley was property owned by St. Cyprian. That’s where the school sat. So it went all the way back to the other side of the alley. So that’s where the playground was. I was there until I went to Holy Comforter [15th and East Capitol Streets NE] in the sixth grade and stayed at Holy Comforter and went to Eliot [18th and C Streets NE]. From Eliot I went to McKinley. From McKinley [Technical High School, Second and T Streets NE] went to Eastern [High School at 17th and East Capitol Streets NE]. I graduated from Eastern in ’69.
DEUTSCH: Have you been over to Eastern since it was renovated?
CAMPBELL: Yes, my youngest son has attended—is at Eastern. So he’s going to be …
DEUTSCH: Oh your younger son is at Eastern now?
CAMPBELL: My younger son is at Eastern now, so he’s going to be a Rambler [laughs].
DEUTSCH: A Rambler. That’s fun.
CAMPBELL: He’s in their biotech program. He’s doing very well I’m very proud to say. So he’s the youngest of my five sons.
DEUTSCH: You have five sons?
DEUTSCH: A dynasty.
CAMPBELL: Yes. My oldest son is 28 and my youngest is 15. My oldest son [Jonn] is a graduate of Gibbs College with a degree in graphic design. I have three sons who attended Duke Ellington [High School]. So I have two of them with visual arts majors and one who was a theater major. So my second son [Bastian] graduated from Duke [Ellington] in the visual arts and went to University of New Mexico. My third son, Christian—let’s see, I have Jonn, Bastian—Christian is a—came out of—graduated from Duke with—in the theater program and is a graduate of Hillsdale College in Michigan with the degree in theater. And my fourth son, Patrick, came out of Duke with a visual arts major and is now finishing up at CCA in California.
CAMPBELL: California College of the Arts. He’s going there for a degree in illustration. And so Jordan has a talent toward drawings, but he has a much stronger talent towards academics, so he’ll be my—he won’t be a starving artist.
DEUTSCH: Someone has to be out there earning something.
CAMPBELL: His specialty is math and science. So, with a minor in arts. So I’m very proud of all of them.
DEUTSCH: Of course. That’s exciting. Any grandkids?
CAMPBELL: One. I have one granddaughter.
DEUTSCH: Finally got a girl.
CAMPBELL: I finally got a girl. She’ll be three this year. Her name is Taya.
DEUTSCH: And where does she live?
CAMPBELL: They’re in Albuquerque.
DEUTSCH: It that T H E A or T E A
DEUTSCH: Oh, Taya, and she’s in Albuquerque.
CAMPBELL: Yeah, she’s—my two older sons are living in Albuquerque. So, we’re kind of spread over. I have to keep track of the time differences. It’s a two-hour time difference there and it’s a three-hour time difference in California. And I have a friend in Texas who’s an hour’s difference, so it’s keeping track.
DEUTSCH: Yeah. Okay let’s get back to you. So you graduated from Eastern in ’61.
DEUTSCH: ’69, right. So I just have to ask you this because we’re asking everyone. Were you in DC for the March on Washington?
DEUTSCH: ’63, were you down there?
CAMPBELL: I wasn’t down there. No, I was in the eighth grade. So I was in school. I remember watching it on TV. I remember sitting and watching Dr. King on TV and listening to the speech.
DEUTSCH: Did they have it on TV in school.
CAMPBELL: No. It was broadcast.
DEUTSCH: By the time he spoke it was late in the afternoon when you were home.
CAMPBELL: The broadcast—it was in late afternoon, so I was home watching in on TV. But I was here for the march. I was here for the ’68 riots. Matter of fact I was caught in the riots because I was working downtown. I was a janitor in one of the office buildings and did happen to stink—remembrance of what tear gas and pepper spray smell like [laughs].
DEUTSCH: Not a smell you want to …
CAMPBELL: There are a number of smells I would like to forget—wish I could forget. Those are the least of which I worry about. I remember 15th Street [NW] when it was torched and a number of places through the city—H Street [NE] remember how it burned down. I have very clear, definite memories of the city back then.
DEUTSCH: How did you feel about all that? Was it—were you scared?
CAMPBELL: I was disturbed. I wasn’t really scared. It was just—I guess my biggest impression then was “Why are you burning down the areas that service you?” I just—I mean I understand the feelings of anger and a lot of the feeling of second class citizenship at the time. I understood it. It doesn’t justify some of what happened, but I understand the rage and the fear that was associated with it. I have distinct memories of my own of places like Garfinkel’s [former downtown department store] being—and how you were treated, especially when you’d walk into the store to buy a [?] and one year particularly going in to buy something for my mother for her birthday. The store clerk—the store detective following me around the store. And then when I went to purchase an item the store clerk looked at me and said, “I’ll be with you in a minute boy.” And then put my money on the counter. Wouldn’t take it from my hand at which point I decided I didn’t need the item. So I walked out. Fine. And I remember working for McDonald’s and my manager was—there isn’t any polite way to say it—was a racist hillbilly from Kentucky who didn’t like blacks and took every day to remind me of the fact.
DEUTSCH: This was McDonald’s near here?
CAMPBELL: No, no, this was McDonald’s on University Boulevard at the time. So I can remember him—
DEUTSCH: He was your supervisor?
CAMPBELL: He was the manager. I was one of the assistant managers. He was a guy from Kentucky who made his feelings towards black people quite evident and both of his [assistant] managers at the time were black. So he took great pride in relishing and reminding us. Using with his frequent reference to the ‘N’ word. I have very distinct memories of all that. A corporation at the time that did little or nothing to address the issue.
DEUTSCH: And that’s, when you think about it, that’s so close. That’s not a long time ago.
CAMPBELL: No, it’s not. It was 1972. So it wasn’t that far ago. I can remember when—I’ve been around long enough to have seen a profound change in attitudes with the city and the people, you know, white and black. I had fortune to have left the city at some point which allowed me to change my outlook and attitude toward a lot of people. I went to California and when I worked in the AIDS hospital, SF General [San Francisco General] at the time that kind of opened my eyes to a lot of different things.
DEUTSCH: Okay, let’s get back. So you graduate from Eastern. What happens then?
CAMPBELL: Actually I was—when I graduated from Eastern I was—I made an attempt to go to FCC which was Federal City College.
DEUTSCH: Federal City College, I remember that, yeah.
CAMPBELL: I puttered around there for close to three semesters and didn’t do anything. So I dropped out. I went to work for Golden Arch Realty Company, which was McDonald’s—worked my way up as an assistant manager. And, like I say, when I ran into this particular gentleman at the time after a couple of years—to say the least, I had a couple of run ins with him which didn’t end well and was transferred to—let’s see, I started at number eight, which was at Greenbelt Road and I left there and I got transferred around a couple of stores with the University Boulevard. I remember my resignation at that store was dropping my keys in the French fry vat at the height of the lunch hour rush—ooh [laughs].
DEUTSCH: I’m sure that felt good to you.
CAMPBELL: It did, it did.
DEUTSCH: Dropping you keys in the …
CAMPBELL: The store keys in the French fry vat and told him, “You take this job and shove it.” And then got transferred to store 45, I think, which was up in Bethesda, right around the corner from the Montgomery County Police Department. I remember being there for a while and then finally had being—had enough of Golden Arch Realty Company. I decided to go back to school. And then it was UDC [University of the District of Columbia, formerly FCC]. I went to UDC in ’74. Applied there. Putzed around for a quarter. No, I went back there in ’73, I’m sorry. Putzed around for the quarter then came out and worked for a little bit and decided, you know, this was not going to do well, so I went back to UDC in ’74. Ran into one of my anatomy physiology instructors who said, “Well, welcome back Mr. Campbell. What are you going to do? You going to screw up again this time.” [laughs] I decided that I was going to stick to my education. So I graduated in ’76 with a degree, an associated degree in respiratory therapy. I met my wife in ’75 at UDC.
CAMPBELL: What was she doing?
CAMPBELL: She was also studying for respiratory therapy.
DEUTSCH: And was she also—is she from Washington?
CAMPBELL: She’s from Washington, yes. So we graduated together and I remember my A and P [anatomy and physiology] instructor was Mrs. Grant. Mrs. Grant stayed on my case the entire time I was at UDC because she felt, ‘Okay, well you’re not going to do anything.’ And I remember when I graduated I had the third highest grade in her class. My wife has the second. And this guy Paul Caraway had the first. [both laugh] So we—I remember Dr. Grant would needle me. She was one those professors who she saw the potential in a person. But it was just—she did the right amount of needling and insult to motivate you to do the best that you can do. And it wasn’t until—fortunately I had the insight enough to realize what was going on and not be offended and just go, okay, you know this is how …
DEUTSCH: I need this.
CAMPBELL: Yeah, I need this. ‘I’m going to show you.’ So she was my main motivation to get through the program and making sure that I was—okay, ‘I’m not a screw up. I can show you that I can do this.’ And I’m thankful—I don’t know what happened to her, but I’m thankful to this day that she was there because she was just the type of motivation that I needed.
DEUTSCH: She was like a mentor.
CAMPBELL: She was. It was like—I remember because I was doing my clinical was at GW [George Washington University Hospital] and I biked across town. And the clinical would let out just late enough that my biking from GW through Rock Creek Park to school—I always arrived to class five minutes late and her comment was, “Oh, so you decided to join us?” [both laugh] It was like—I remember because I was working nights, going to school in the day. And I remember I’d get to class sometimes after my bike ride. And I’d sit in class and in about two seconds I’d doze off in class. She would say something to me and I’d always be able to wake up and pick up where we were. So it was like, ‘Oh, how are you going to sleep in my class and you know where we’re going—okay, if you can keep up.’ But she was—my girlfriend, who is my wife now, at the time. Dr. Grant would always tease me like, she’d tease me “Why are you hanging with him? He’s up to no good. He’s not going to—he’ll never amount to anything, you know.” [laughter] It was like, ‘I’m going to show you.’
DEUTSCH: Those were fighting words, yes.
CAMPBELL: I tell you, she was a piece of work, Dr. Grant. But again, I can’t be thankful enough for having somebody like her who was around at the time.
DEUTSCH: So respiratory therapy. What is that? Is that like a medical …
CAMPBELL: Yes, respiratory therapist are the people who if you stop breathing we put you on machines. At the time we did the—we drew blood for oxygenation test. What we called arterial blood gas. The job has change considerably back from when I started. We were at the very beginning when blood gas machines, all they measured was pH, PCO2 and PAO2. They now do all the electrolyte studies. They can tell you—some of the machines now tell you sodium. They tell you bicarbonate. They tell you all things that we calculated back then. The job has expanded. I mean we did pretty much then it was chest physiotherapy. Working with cystic fibrosis patients. At the time, when I came out of school, I remember my—unfortunately the first patient that died on me was a cystic fibrosis child that was 10 years old. I remember the disease quite well. I kept that young lady’s obituary. Up to this day I still have it. I remember her. I did a lot of things then working in various hospitals that obviously now are considered outside the scope of our responsibilities, but there were cross-training issues then. So, yes the field has grown considerably in the 40 years since I was in the field, but we were the pioneers, so to speak, because the field was still—even though it was still relatively new, it left a lot of room for expansion and to do things. Essentially back then we put you on the respirators. We monitored you. We did blood gas as we adjusted the ventilator settings according to the blood gases. We did a lot of physiotherapy. We had cystic fibrosis patients, Gideon Barré patients, paralyzed patients, pneumonia cold, chest colds and things like that. That was the basic tenets of our job.
DEUTSCH: So after you graduated, was that when you moved to California?
CAMPBELL: No, I worked at Greater Southeast [Hospital] which was special. I worked for Greater Southeast until around ’82. Left there …
DEUTSCH: Was your wife working there too?
CAMPBELL: No, my wife was at Hospital Center [Washington Hospital Center]. I got a job offer from a hospital in California. Then it was, at the time, extremely good money. My wife did also, so they brought us out as a team.
DEUTSCH: Which was the hospital?
CAMPBELL: Hospital was El Camino in Mountain View, California. So my wife worked the day. I worked the night shift. We had been married—we got married in ’68 so by then we had been married a little over six years. We didn’t have any kids then. Got to California …
DEUTSCH: So she worked nights and you worked days—no …
CAMPBELL: She worked days. I worked nights. [laughs] Got to California and then stayed out there for a while. Had two kids in California. My two oldest boys were born in ’84 and the other in ’85.
DEUTSCH: Sounds like that was a huge change?
DEUTSCH: Mountain View, California must be totally different from Washington, DC.
CAMPBELL: It was, it was—I think when I first moved out there, because I moved out there to get things together. The first 110 days I was there it rained, because we moved out in the rainy—we didn’t know then that the later part of the year was the rainy season, so it was like I kept thinking, ‘Jes’ I felt like a damned duck.’ The whole time I was there I felt like, ‘This is all it ever does in California is rain?’ It was—Mountain View was about 45, 50 miles from San Francisco. So it was an adventure. We went out there, we had kids and we hopped around all over the San Francisco Bay area. Learned our way around and came back here. We rented our house out here and stayed out there and come back here around ’88. Wife came back earlier.
DEUTSCH: So how many years were you in San Francisco?
CAMPBELL: We were out there about seven years. My wife came back here. Went back into the house. And when I came back I couldn’t find a job, so I stayed home with the kids. We had two more children at the time.
DEUTSCH: She was back at work?
CAMPBELL: She was back at work, yes. I couldn’t find a job so I stayed home and played Mr. Mom.
DEUTSCH: Uh huh. And that wasn’t as common then as it is now.
CAMPBELL: No it wasn’t.
DEUTSCH: How was that?
CAMPBELL: Well it wasn’t hard because I’m the oldest of seven kids, so I mean, I knew how to braid hair and all. Not that I had to do that because I didn’t have any girls. So I had three younger brothers and three younger sisters growing up. And I’ve always enjoyed cooking, so I cooked. [laughs] I’d taken a couple of sewing classes in my spare time, so I could sew a little. I already knew how to clean as I had—I was at home so. My grandmother taught us how because she lived with us when we were growing up.
DEUTSCH: She taught you about cleaning?
CAMPBELL: Cleaning and cooking. I’ve gotten a little better at baking now. I try to emulate my grandmother.
DEUTSCH: What were her specialties? What did she make?
CAMPBELL: Cinnamon rolls from scratch and yellow cake with chocolate icing from scratch. I do all my baking from scratch. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: So just tell me a little about the things your grandmother used to make.
CAMPBELL: The two things I said that came to mind are her cinnamon rolls from scratch because I remember the pans sitting on the dining room table with a dishtowel over it, because it was yeast and waiting for it to rise.
DEUTSCH: I bet they were good.
CAMPBELL: Oh yes. And her homemade wine.
DEUTSCH: Homemade wine?
CAMPBELL: Yes, because grandmother had—this is my father’s mother—it’s a small house. And the stairwell up to the second floor was in the back of the kitchen. I mean it was—it had this little alcove under the stairwell and it was dark, so she had a porcelain crock pot. I don’t think you find those anymore with a spigot in it and a top. I remember she would crush green grapes and sugar and water and set that in the crock pot—and it would set in the cheese cloth so you fill it with water and sugar and I don’t remember what else. And then put the grapes in and you crush them. And you had them in the cheese cloth and put the crock pot on top—crock pot top on and set it up under the stairwell in the cool dark place. And every now and then she would pull it out and test it, or taste it. “Not ready yet.” And so it fermented in the cool dark place and when it was ready we had homemade wine.
DEUTSCH: And so it was white wine?
CAMPBELL: White wine. Yes.
DEUTSCH: How was it?
CAMPBELL: Oh it was delicious. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: So for some years you stayed home and you were Mr. Mom. Where were your kids going to school?
CAMPBELL: All my kids started at Brent. They went to the sixth grade, so they were from the kindergarten through six. Then they went to Stuart-Hobson. From Stuart-Hobson they went to, let’s see, my oldest son went to Techworld. It’s a charter school at the time. It was where the old, what is it, GOA, GSA—I can’t remember the building but it’s where the new Fourth Street SW [401 M Street, SW]. The building that was there before they put in the DC area building [on both sides of Fourth Street SW north of M Street SW]. Techworld was a charter school that was there. And then my other sons went from Stuart-Hobson to Duke Ellington. For my younger son again went to, when he came out of Stuart-Hobson, went to Eastern. So they’ve all gone from Brent. One time all four of my sons, my four oldest sons were all at Brent at one point. And then they went to Stuart-Hobson. Again at one point three of them were there at one time. And then they went to Duke Ellington where at one point three of them were at Duke. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: Did you get involved with the schools? Were you on the PTA and all that?
CAMPBELL: No I was working because by then I was working for an agency. I was a contract therapist. And then in ’97 I started working for AMTRAK, AMTRAK Auto Train.
DEUTSCH: Oh. What were you doing for AMTRAK?
CAMPBELL: I was what’s called on-board service attendant. So I worked the dining car, the coaches, the lounge car, the sleepers. So I was trained in all the aspects of on-board service, so I was a sleeper car attendant. I was a chef. Worked dining cars, attended the dining car. And then when a position became open I worked there, on-board services—actually I enjoyed that. I also worked on my days off, I worked for various hospitals as a contract therapist. That was to help supplement my income because we had obviously four kids at the top that were …
DEUTSCH: That’s a lot of shoes with five boys,
CAMPBELL: Well it was—my youngest wasn’t born until ’97, so it was with them being as artists—art supplies are very expensive. It was very interesting running up and down to the schools. We were—my wife was a PTA president at Brent. She was more active in the school. I was, because of my work schedule, because again when I was working agency I worked 10- and 12-hour shifts depending. And the when I worked for AMTRAK I was on the road. So I’d be gone for two and a half days and I’d be home for two days and I’d be back on the road. It wasn’t something where I could be too involved. Then when a position became available at AMTRAK for an HR instructor I applied for that.
DEUTSCH: An HR instructor?
CAMPBELL: Human resources.
DEUTSCH: Human resources.
CAMPBELL: For training, so I was doing training between my on and off on the road trips. I was—by virtue of my background I was teaching first aid, CPR, because I was a CPR instructor also at the time. My sister worked for Children’s [Hospital], my brother works as a lab tech at PG in the blood banks, so we were all CPR instructors. My sister-in-law is a nurse practitioner.
DEUTSCH: Lots of medical …
CAMPBELL: Yes. My wife and I basically were CPR instructors also on a part-time. When I went to work for AMTRAK I utilized all my medical skills and so we taught Prepare, which was a course that AMTRAK offered which was CPR, first aid, evacuation techniques. All things centered around trans-specific safety issues. The year that I taught my last Prepare class was about 30 days before AMTRAK had its first derailment. I was on that train and got injured.
DEUTSCH: You were on the train—which derailment was this?
CAMPBELL: The Auto Train derailment, April 19th of 2002. It was in Crescent City, Florida.
DEUTSCH: What caused the derailment?
CAMPBELL: A kink in the track.
DEUTSCH: A freight train had gone through?
CAMPBELL: A freight train had gone through about an hour before we did. And it had gone through at a reduced speed about five or ten miles an hour. When we came through about an hour later we didn’t get the signal or somehow the communication was lost and so we came through at 57 miles an hour. And the train hit a kink. The first three cars went over the kink. The last 16 cars derailed. There were 450 people on the train. Four people were killed. The crew—everybody was thrown around the train. Two people were—for the two people who were on the train were ejected as they were coming through the cars at the time. One person was killed when the window popped out and ballast came in. I don’t remember how the other person was killed. There were a number—two of the cars A-framed, which is basically—so you’re looking at double-decker cars 90 feet long that had all come off the track. My car came off the track and I was in the center of the car at the time. And I remember getting thrown across the car. And the only reason I survived was that the window held. I think my family said the first time they saw me was when the TV crew was flying over and they were showing the site. And I was standing on the side of my sleeper car.
DEUTSCH: And they could see you from that …
CAMPBELL: They said they could see me, yup. She said, “Well, Daddy’s OK.” She has a kid—a buddy of mine had called them and asked them if he had—asked my wife if she had heard anything about the derailment. She was like, “What derailment?” He said, “Well the train derailed.” We were taking one of my passengers out of the window of the car because the car way lying on its side. It was traumatic experience, I mean, to say the least.
DEUTSCH: I guess. How did you feel about the train—I mean it was sort of interesting that you’d been doing this training basically for this kind of thing?
CAMPBELL: Right, never expecting that it would ever happen. When it did, I mean, it was like it’s kind of surreal because when the train is going down the tracks there’s a certain motion to it and you learn to walk a certain way. Even when you’re passing through the cars you learn to pass through it a certain way. And so, when it’s up to speed you still—there’s certain ways to walking. You kind of waddle so that you don’t fall, and especially when you’re carrying trays, because sometimes you have to serve food to your passengers in the cars, especially in the handicapped room. It was the motion of the train that felt real off.
DEUTSCH: Suddenly you knew it wasn’t …
CAMPBELL: And I knew it wasn’t a good thing. Another thing I kept thinking was I was in this narrow corridor and I thought the train was going to fall on that side which probably would have meant that that side would have gotten crushed. And so I kind of ran to where I thought would be the safest spot which happened to be the center of the car. And right at that moment the train tipped. And I found myself getting thrown across the car up against where the window was which was over the stairwell. And so that’s where I was when the car went over on the side and rolled. And that’s where I stayed until the train came to a stop and I realized, you know, “Whoa, window held.” [laughs]
DEUTSCH: Thank you Lord.
CAMPBELL: Otherwise I would have been a smear. It was rather interesting. It was like, you know, when you’ve got to do this and you go, “Okay I’m still here.” Then you start hearing people scream. Then, you know, when you get yourself together you—for me it was always the thing about, okay somebody’s hurt check it out. You know, I mean, when I worked in the hospital I worked in places like the ER, the ICUs, the critical care areas, the burn units, you know, so I’m—I guess I’m an adrenaline junky. I love those types of things that nick you, like the high pressure areas. And so this was for me just another high pressure …
DEUTSCH: Another experience of it.
CAMPBELL: Yep. You know, and I was a certain volunteer for a while too, so …
DEUTSCH: Certain …
CAMPBELL: Community emergency response team. The certain volunteers, so, you know, when we were doing the training, you know, I’d tell people that, one of the thinks was like, ‘If you didn’t have water, what would be a ready source of water in your house?’ And I said, ‘In the back of the toilet tank.’ It’s a great place. I mean, you have 2 ? gallons of water in most cases. So it was one of those things where you—if you have to shelter in place that was the whole evidence behind search training and what you would have to do in an emergency situation. Me having had the benefit of that and my hospital experience and those things, I mean, kind of all kicked in. So we were taught how to remove a window because train windows which a lot of people don’t realize are bulletproof because there are people that shoot at the trains. [laughs] Surprisingly enough. So it wasn’t unusual to see an impact on a window. I don’t know what kind of kick you get out of at shooting a train but, you know again … [laughs]
DEUTSCH: Are you still working for AMTRAK?
CAMPBELL: No, actually as a result of my injuries they retired me in 2005. It was kind of a good thing because I was out after the derailment—[unintelligible] older son had a stroke in 2004.
DEUTSCH: Had a stroke?
CAMPBELL: Yeah. My next to youngest son Patrick had stroke two days after his 13th birthday while he was at school.
DEUTSCH: That’s unusual.
CAMPBELL: Well at the time it was because we didn’t know about pediatric stroke victims.
DEUTSCH: Had he had …
CAMPBELL: No, it was asymptomatic meaning that it didn’t give any symptoms, it didn’t give indications. He was at school and suddenly took ill. He had what was called an arteriovenous malformation. An AVM in his brain. And if you look at anatomy, all vessels have an in and an out. So if you are looking at—say the best way to do it is if you look something like this they have an in and an out. In his case, where this AVM was it was like this. It was just a mass of non-directional vessels and one of them burst. It doesn’t give any symptoms with meaning asymptomatic. Doesn’t give you any indications. If they are in the head they burst. If they are in the heart, you know, sometimes you read these things about kids running and they drop dead. It’s from AVMs. Usually they’re cardiac. Fortunately he was at school and apparently the year before another student had had something similar. Duke Ellington being down street from Georgetown Hospital—it was a lot of things that came together to his benefit. My wife happened to be at work that day. And she works at Georgetown. He was down street. The teacher whose classroom he was in recognized what was going on. They sent him to the nurse. From the time—from the onset of his symptoms to the time he got to the ER, and then was in surgery, was about an hour. Had it not been for that he would have died.
DEUTSCH: Oh gosh!
CAMPBELL: He was a right-handed freshman art major, who is now a left-handed art major. So he lost the use of his right side.
DEUTSCH: Permanently?
CAMPBELL: Yes. He has a permanent deficit on the right side. He lost the use of his right hand. He walks with a limp. He has what’s called Broca’s aphasia. Short term memory issues. Since I was out at the time due to my injuries, I was his caregiver. He spent—two days after his birthday, from that point, which was October 12th 2004, and he was in the hospital until January, and at the end of January 2005. Because I remember he was in the hospital—I spent all my time at the hospital at his bedside. My wife and I were both, like I said, there beside. And I was out, so I spent all my time at the hospital. We slept in the room with him. You can imagine how traumatic it is being 14 years old and all of a sudden, you know, he was a child who was a break dancer.
DEUTSCH: Which son was this? What was his name?
CAMPBELL: This is Patrick our 14 year old at the time. So he’s my next to youngest child.
DEUTSCH: And suddenly he’s …
CAMPBELL: Of a sudden you’re totally incapacitated trying to figure out what’s happening.
DEUTSCH: So a lot of your work was probably psychological as well as, you know, just kind of keeping him—his spirits up.
CAMPBELL: It is, it is. So I mean, having to deal with his brothers who didn’t understand what was going on. They knew because it’s something we’ve always shared with our kids, I mean, our training and things we went through, so it’s a case when you say, you know, “A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing when you know the ramifications and the consequences.” It was not a great thing for my wife and I. Yeah, we [unintelligible] since I was out because of my injuries, I was the caregiver, and so that’s when we got very involved in special ed because he didn’t go to school until the year after his stroke. He was out of school. He was in the hospital from the 12th until Thanksgiving. He was allowed out on a pass on Thanksgiving 2004. So we came home, had dinner at home when I had to get him back to the hospital that night. So we took him back to the hospital. When we came back we found my mother-in-law dead in her house.
DEUTSCH: Oh my gosh! Oh gosh!
CAMPBELL: It’s been kind of, you know, a rough—that was a rough year. We came back. We found my mother-in-law’s front door open. We couldn’t figure out what was going on. Walked in the house and found her on the floor. So I did CPR on my mother-in-law. You know, it was a rough year. 2004 was not a banner year for us.
DEUTSCH: What had happened to her? I mean she was old.
CAMPBELL: She probably had a heart attack.
DEUTSCH: Heart attack. Yeah.
CAMPBELL: It was kind of a rough year. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: I guess!
CAMPBELL: When my son went back to school, I went back as his provider because DCPS [District of Columbia Public Schools] would not provide him—despite the fact that special ed requires that you have a caregiver. So I spent—I was 55 at the time and I went to high school with my 14 year old son.
DEUTSCH: That must have been quite an education?
CAMPBELL: It was for almost two years through ninth grade and tenth grade. We sued DCPS numerous times. We got very involved. I picketed DCPS’s offices. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: Sued them for proper services?
CAMPBELL: His services, right, because he was supposed to get a tutor while he was in the hospital. They provided none of those things. That’s when I was—I got very involved with special education at the time. I picketed DCPS. I was threatened with arrest. I was threatened. I was told I called in a bomb threat and various other things when they tried to arrest me. [laughs] I was an interesting experience fighting DCPS at the time. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: So he graduated?
CAMPBELL: He graduated in 2009.
DEUTSCH: That must have been a proud day for you?
CAMPBELL: It was, I mean, considering the fact that here was a child that had gone from, you know, being bed-ridden, to a wheel chair, to walking with a cane, walking with assist, and finally being able to walk across the stage under his own power. With all the issues he was having, me having my own medical issues at the time, it was like, hey. I was fighting the Railroad Retirement Board for my disability payments, and so, you know, I didn’t get that until 2011. And I got injured in 2002. So it was seven years of fighting the RRB. [both laugh]
DEUTSCH: And where is he now, this son?
CAMPBELL: He’s at California College of the Arts. He’s in his fourth year. He’s in a 4 ? year program for illustration. So he’s there. So he’s in his fourth year now. The school has been great. I mean, they’ve been very good. Their Special Ed department, their disability services division has been extremely good in working with us through the years. Patrick is one of those kids that he works—I mean for him that first year was difficult because he had short-term memory issues. And so he had to imprint on an area, once he learned that area, that he was one of those kids that—he had to have a—he went from this point to this point. And as long as he had that venue, anything that deviated from that caused some problems.
DEUTSCH: As long as he could keep doing …
CAMPBELL: As long as he could keep doing those things. So it was imperative for us to understand that he had to stay in the same place. So they did that the first two years. And then when he was able to move and he was better able to learn his way—and it’s not so much [unintelligible] issue, so once he has learned that he can go places and find his was around. He has made tremendous strides from where he was.
DEUTSCH: Sounds like it.
CAMPBELL: So we worry, like parents do, we worry but it’s—you know, he catches a plane on his own. He bops around the city on his own. You know, he’s fortunate that he has people out there who are looking out for him. When he has had his seizure, the occasions that he has had seizures, we’ve gotten calls. I think the last call was about 2 o’clock in the morning from the Dean of Students and he was at the hospital with him.
DEUTSCH: So, ongoing seizures is one of the dangers?
CAMPBELL: He is on medication every day. Seizures are always an issue, but he’s, knock wood, hasn’t had a seizure in years. We’re hopeful. We know that medication is going to be something that he’s going to be on forever, but again, like any parent you worry, but we know that he’s done—I mean, considering where he was, that strides that he’s made and the accomplishment that he’s done, I mean we’re quite proud of him.
DEUTSCH: I should think.
CAMPBELL: As I am with all my children, but actually he’s my hero. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: And I’m sure he knows that.
CAMPBELL: Yeah, he does. I mean, it’s one of those things, you know, when I talk about Patrick I usually get very angry. Because I’m angry about what happened to him. Sometimes it’s all you can do not to cry because, you know, those types of things that you know, as a parent you …
DEUTSCH: You don’t want anything to happen to your children.
CAMPBELL: It’s always an emotional issue for me to deal with Patrick. I’ve gotten better at dealing with it, just like my wife. My kids—my son says something different they let you know—my other son Christian says—the other night when we were talking, he says, “You know nothing ever hurts my dad, but was the first time I actually saw my dad hurting, him cry.” Well, you know, that’s my son.
DEUTSCH: Let’s talk about the ANC [Advisory Neighborhood Commission]. [Campbell laughs] When did you get involved in the ANC?
CAMPBELL: I got involved in 2002.
DEUTSCH: About the time all this was happening?
CAMPBELL: About the time all this was going on because Tommy [Wells] was on the school board. I reached on to Tommy for help. I was looking for every venue I could, every possible to get to what I needed. And the ANC commissioner at the time, I can’t remember the woman’s name, but I reached out to her for support, and I found out in the long run that this commissioner had gone to two meetings in her two-year term. I guess my comment was, “What the hell, how are you going to help anybody if you don’t even go to your meetings?” But, well, it was prior to that. The commissioner prior to that was a woman named Bass Williams who was very helpful with me in getting so other issues resolved. And found out that she actually lived a block away from me.
DEUTSCH: So she was the ANC?
CAMPBELL: She was ANC commissioner prior to the other commissioner. But, Ms. Williams was a great help in getting some other issues resolved. When she ran—the last term that she ran for, this other young lady contested, which is what you can do during the voting period. When you register, when you bring your petitions down, she challenged some of the signatures on her petition. Was able to get some of them disqualified. As a result, Ms. Williams wasn’t able to become the commissioner. So the young lady ran and won the election. But in her term she never went to any of the meetings. So I was like, well, ‘You challenged Ms. Williams’ signatures. You were successful in getting her name off the ballot. You won. What are you going to do?’ And so, I decided at that point, well I needed to get involved. The first year I ran I lost.
DEUTSCH: And the first year you ran was 2002?
CAMPBELL: Was 2000. So in 2002 I ran again and I won. It was the first term and I didn’t have any idea, honestly, what the ANC did.
DEUTSCH: You were like everyone else.
CAMPBELL: Like everyone else. It was like, ‘Okay I knew that they were supposed to help constituents and it meant that you had to contact all these government agencies and help people with—and you were responsible for about 2,000 of the residents in that single member district, you know.’ But I wasn’t aware just how much work it actually meant. [both laugh] I mean, I knew you didn’t get paid. I was like, you know, ‘Well its not about getting paid.’
DEUTSCH: No pay, lots of work.
CAMPBELL: No pay, lots of work. It was about, ‘Okay let’s see if we can get these issues resolved.’ My first year was a learning experience. They asked me to—I think Ken [Kenan] Jarboe at the time was the chair and he asked me about would I consider being the Planning and Zoning chair. And Planning and Zoning chair, little did I realize at the time, meant a horrendous commitment of time to reading what’s called the DCMR, the DC Code of Municipal Regulations. And in that there’s every regulation in code in every kind of build—regulations about the city, everything that takes place. New construction, old construction, you know, permitting, everything. Writing up a report. Having a meeting every month and then writing a report with everyone who comes to the meeting and says, “Well we’re applying for a permit for this, that and everything.” I spent that two years reading DCMR and sitting in front of the computer and thinking to myself, “Oh my god, what have I gotten myself into?” [laughs] I ended up with a working knowledge of some of the things you can and can’t do, what’s allowed, what isn’t allowed. Having to quote those in my reports. [laughs] Trying to sit down and give a balanced synopsis of what people wanted to do and what our opinion was. I tried to look at it from the point if this is something I want to do, how would I do it? Would I be able to do it? Can I do it within the code? Can I do it in such a manner that would allow me to get what I want and still be within the legal confines of what the code is? I’ve run successively for six terms. This is my sixth and last term. I don’t plan to run again after this.
DEUTSCH: [laughs] You’ve decided that?
CAMPBELL: No I’ve decided I’m going to try to make a run for Ward 6 Council seat.
CAMPBELL: I wanted to do that. I told my wife, “This is my last hurrah,” I said. I’ve done—it’s a different type of politics, I understand that, and something I’m not accustom to, but I’ll be 62 this year. I said, “I’ve done the ANC for ten years.”
DEUTSCH: That’s good preparation. That’s as good preparation probably as you can have.
CAMPBELL: It’s probably, and this will be 12 years when I come out. I know that when Tommy [Wells] announced that he was going to run for the mayor I figure, well, you know …
DEUTSCH: You and Tommy have a pretty good relationship?
CAMPBELL: We’ve had our disagreements, but I respect Tommy in the work that he has done. I like him personally. I don’t always agree with him, so he doesn’t agree with me. And again, I mean, we’ve had our issues, but I respect what he’s done. And he’s somebody I can call if I need something. Just like I have contacts with other Council members. I’ve tried to utilize my contacts with the Council and other city agencies to benefit my constituents and other people. It’s not something—it’s not a responsibility I take lightly. When you in this position you first and foremost are responsible to your constituents. As the chair of the Planning and Zoning I take the attitude and the opinion that I’m here to try to do what my constituents and other constituents want because as the chair of Planning and Zoning I see everyone from the entire [ANC] 6B. It’s not just my constituents, it’s the applicants from throughout the ANC. So it is one that you try to make the best decision based on what the code is. And if there is some feasible way that you can allow the applicant to do what it is that they want to do or propose to do and it’s within the confines where it doesn’t disaffect the next adjoining neighbors, if there are some. If it’s within the confines of HPRB [Historic Preservation Review Board] and CHRS [Capitol Hill Restoration Society] and within public space.
So there are a lot of things you have to balance. But you again try to do to the best of your ability what is going to benefit them and the city at whole. I mean it doesn’t work out—I mean, and I have prefaced my comments sometimes by telling people my personal opinion is I don’t agree, but I’m not here to represent my personal opinion. I can express my personal opinion but I have to do what the code allows me and what people expect me to represent. In my decisions I’ve always tried to do that. You know, I may not like something. And there are times when I have made decisions, based on the information that I have, and then I find out later on that there is additional information and so that I may have to change my opinion.
DEUTSCH: Make changes. So was that your main focus on the ANC was this work on the zoning or did you have other stuff as well?
CAMPBELL: No, I mean as the chair Planning and Zoning that’s my main responsibility. But as a commissioner we weigh in on all issues that come before the ANC.
DEUTSCH: And does the ANC—do you have regular meetings? How does it work?
CAMPBELL: We have regular meetings twice a month. Planning and Zoning meets the first Tuesday of every month to hear all the cases that come before Planning and Zoning. The full ANC meeting is the second Tuesday of every month.
DEUTSCH: When you say full ANC meeting that’s all the ANC reps?
CAMPBELL: All the commission show up at that meeting and that when we make decisions on all the cases before us. Now there are the task force that meet regularly; the Hill East task force, Transportation task force. These are new task force and committees that have come into being to address issues that didn’t fall under either the ABC Committee, which is Alcohol Beverage Control, or Planning and Zoning. And so over the years, just like the city, things have changed and we find out that there were necessary to create either committees or task forces to address those issues. Transportation which is headed up by Kirsten Oldenburg is because there a lot of safety issues and transportation—CSX with their new tunnel that they’re planning to put in. You know, those things come under transportation issues. And so a lot of the issues that I would have ordinarily seen a few years back now have happened so often that we need to have a separate committee to address those.
DEUTSCH: So the ANC, any other major issues that you have dealt with on the ANC? Things that you’ve learned about how the city works or doesn’t work?
CAMPBELL: [sighs] Big issues? I think the biggest issue was that Hine [Junior High School, Pennsylvania Avenue and D Streets SE between Seventh and Eighth Streets SE] project which there is no—I can’t say that there has been any across the board agreement with what’s going to take place at Hine. There’s—and the same thing with the ANC, I mean, obviously the community has very divergent opinions about Hine. There isn’t an easy answer. There has been even through that entire process. Again, I’m opposed to it; was opposed to it from the very beginning.
DEUTSCH: You were opposed to moving the school from there?
CAMPBELL: No, I was opposed to the proposal that Stanton-EastBanc is doing. And the reason being is because what I think is too big. The street infrastructure will not sustain what’s going to take place here. I mean, obviously is a residential neighborhood. And you’re looking at something—a project that is going to have over 300 parking spaces—close to 300 parking spaces, retail, residential, okay, in a one-block radius and you think about the number of people, not only that merchants, retail, residential that are coming in there and the street infrastructure is going to be hard pressed. The surrounding neighborhood is going to be extremely hard pressed on how to deal with this. I think it needs to be on a smaller scale. I’m not opposed to retail. But I’m opposed to something that weighs a six to seven story monolithic structure that brings in such density in a residential neighborhood that does not, I think—will not sustain that type of density and influx of people and materials and whatever are coming into an area is already hard pressed. I mean, you see how that area is on the weekends. I avoid North Carolina Avenue and Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue on a weekend like the plague, because of the people. And now you’re going to put in a structure that’s going to bring in upwards of 2,000 people. So, I mean it may be great for revitalization. I think it can be done on a smaller scale. I know a lot of people that originally wanted single-family homes built on the site. Some aspect of retail on Seventh Street, but the structure that’s going in—the project that going in now, I mean, and again it’s going to be what, over a year of construction with over 3,000, 10,000 trucks. It’s—the only thing I can say honestly is that I’m glad I don’t live there. [laughs] I think what’s going to happen is the same thing that’s happening to that military structure right there off of Seminary Road in Virginia, off of I-395 [BRAC relocation of Army offices] You put up a facility that’s going to house 6,000 people and you don’t do anything with transportation, you don’t do anything with the road infrastructure. And they are going to come into an area that isn’t served. And it’s like, this is going to be somewhat equitable situation. Time will tell. I’m not all gloom and doom.
DEUTSCH: Talking with Francis Campbell. You were opposed to St. Coletta’s. [Independence Avenue and 19th Street SE]
CAMPBELL: I was. Let’s be perfectly clear, I’m not opposed to its mission, anything that it does. People have made an issue of some of my comments in the past. I can tell that people, you know—I’m not opposed St. Coletta’s. My actually was, or is—I have a brother now that is 57 years old who back then was retarded, who was considered retarded. It was not a disparaging back then that’s what the classification was.
DEUTSCH: It’s considered descriptive.
CAMPBELL: Right. All right, so my brother—we’ve grown up with retarded people or special needs people now. It’s a matter of being politically correct now. Everything has changed just like a lot of the terms Negro and everything else has changed, so I’m old school. Sometimes I don’t remember. [Deutsch laughs] And if I use the term retarded it is not to be a disparaging comment because that’s what we grew up with. So it was never about what their mission was. It was always about the deal that the city gave them. How the building did not fit in with the adjoining neighborhood. And its placement on Reservation 13. It was on the—and this something that I’ve thought this way also about. So, I mean, this is public record. It was always about those things. When it was built, I made an effort to reach out to Ms. Raimo [Chief Executive Officer of St. Coletta of Greater Washington] and speak to her. I consider her a friend now. I do call her by her first name Sharon. [laughs] She calls me by my first name. Okay, I worked diligently with her to address issues that the school has experienced over the years such as placement with DCPS and the buses and how they disaffect the neighborhood and trying to get certain accommodations done. I think I have—this is a primary example of a case where people looked at me as being very opposed to something but not for the reasons as they thought where it has turned around and it is something that we have support—they have supported the ANC. They have supported the Planning and Zoning Committee by allowing me to have my meetings there every month.
DEUTSCH: You have your meetings at …
CAMPBELL: I have my meetings at St. Coletta’s, yes. Planning and Zoning Committee meets every month there at seven o’clock on the first Tuesday of every month. They allow us to have the [?] the special call meetings there. They have been a very good community partner as far as community meetings and [?] so. And is work with Ms. Raimo on other issues. I’m not at liberty to speak about, but again, to try to benefit the community at large, not only just the immediate community but the community at large. If people want to say that, ‘Well you know you made some disparaging remarks.’ You know, we all make remarks when we’re angry. I regret some of those that were said, but they happened. I’m not waste time defending them. I suspect that—where we are now is we’re partners.
DEUTSCH: You moved forward.
CAMPBELL: We’ve moved forward and we try to make sure that things get taken care of and get done to benefit everyone. Again, that’s how I look at it.
DEUTSCH: So it sounds like a lot of the issues you’ve dealt with have been around development.
CAMPBELL: They have, especially with all of Reservation 13. I mean, I worked there as a therapist when the hospital was open. And I find it interesting, my understanding; the last year when Anthony Williams closed the hospital was the first year that the hospital would turn a profit. So it was like, I don’t know if they fast-tracked the closure so that wouldn’t be made public, but again, you know, it is what it is.
It’s unfortunate that the neighborhood and the community viewed the property as a dumping ground. I mean, it could be a lot of things with the development taking place across the city. Those of us who live there would have pushed—we pushed even back when it didn’t have the zoning. The ANC sat down and created the zoning. And so in 2008 when the zoning overlay was set down it was because of our efforts. And then when the four developers at the time who presented—it was Hunt Development, the Hill East Waterfront, EastBanc—I think it was EastBanc. I can’t remember the other one but the community vetted a full site development by Hunt. And it was through the continued foibles of the city [laughs] and its administration and continued screw ups and promises that weren’t kept that none of that was carried through on. It was a development that everyone wanted that didn’t incorporate anything over four stories. Community center, waterfront access, the preservation of Anne Archibald Hall which was a tallest structure on that site at the time. [The development proposal included] Memorial Circle, residential, retail, single-family homes as well as apartments and condos. It had all of that. [Note: Anne Archibald Hall, at 19th Street and Massachusetts Avenue SE, was the Nurses’ Residence for Gallinger Municipal Hospital, later renamed DC General Hospital. Built in 1932, the building was renamed Anne Archibald Hall in 1952 in honor of the local philanthropist and advocate for the hospital's nurses and patients.]
DEUTSCH: But it just didn’t …
CAMPBELL: It didn’t, no, the city dropped the ball just like it did on other projects. There’s resentment on my part, yes, and a profound disappointment with the administrations and their failure to carry through on those things, or promises that weren’t kept.
DEUTSCH: So I assume that one of your things that would be front and center in any campaign you’d run to be on city council would be to ensure that things like that don’t happen.
CAMPBELL: Right. The new thing now—the traffic and the conversation that serves now is the $400 million budget surplus the District has. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: Oh right. Thanks to all those parking tickets we get.
CAMPBELL: Oh the parking tickets, speeding tickets and yes, you know, one of my famous wishes was to get a speeding camera on 19th Street [SE]. But there was rationale—and I know people hate it. I mean, I’ve got City Council members and their staff who have gotten tickets going through; DDOT people got that and they’re very angry with me. I think the rationale behind that speeding camera because there is a quarter-mile stretch between Massachusetts Avenue and Independence Avenue [SE]—and with the Metro being right across the street, I’ve neighbors, my wife, friends, constituents who cross at that intersection—with St. Coletta’s being there now their buses exit onto 19th Street and their children when the weather is decent, they ambulate across that intersection. Alright, is the worst thing in my opinion, is to have people crossing to access the Metro or the kids leaving the school to go to the store in wheelchairs and walking with aid, they have some jackass trying to do 70 miles an hour down the street. Alright, we’ve asked for speed bumps, we’ve asked for traffic lights, we’ve asked for stop signs …
DEUTSCH: This is on 19th Street?
CAMPBELL: On 19th Street. We’ve asked for a number of traffic calming measures. And for years we were told we can’t do them because 19th Street is an emergency egress. Alright, so there are so many different things that we cannot do, yet and still my concern is we’ve even been told that people shouldn’t cross there. Well the jail used to be there. And the last remnant of the jail is that fence that’s there, but again people cross there and kids cross there. It’s a school zone. There are six schools between Potomac Avenue [SE] and Benning Road [NE]. And so, nothing’s worse and what makes it so bad is police speed through there. The buses speed there. All you need is one person to go through and get killed. We were told, once before like with 18th and Independence, we can’t put a traffic light. Now we finally got the funding to put one there. But the rationale was there’s not enough warrants, meaning there are not enough incidents or accidents. Well, and I’ve always told people, if you kill somebody—you said a traffic light costs $100,000. If you kill somebody it’s going to cost you $100 million.
Why not be proactive instead of reactive? And the same thing with this intersection. A traffic camera now makes people slow down. Nobody speeds through there because if they come through there too you’re looking at a minimum $125 ticket.
DEUTSCH: Well and what I found with a traffic camera that I used to pass. Every week I did the same thing. I was going to a volunteer job that I did. And every week I’d get a ticket. I wasn’t going 70 miles an hour, but I was going just enough above the speed limit.
CAMPBELL: Eleven miles.
DEUTSCH: Yeah. And I got it every single week. And I wrote down, “You better slow down girl.” [laughs]
CAMPBELL: See and that’s the thing I said, it slows down—people know that the camera’s there now. When it was a [unintelligible] shortly to put up on the Southeast Freeway I ran behind MPD, “Please put the camera back because people are speeding.” What’d they put it back I said, “Because this is a unique situation. There’s a access to Metro and it is a school crossing for special needs.” The only school in the city with special needs. And they cross there every day.
We know people are going to do what they’re going to do. They’re going to cross whereever it’s convenient. So somehow to try and enhance pedestrian safety. And I told them—and I’ve threatened the city, “My wife or my kids get hurt you’re not going to like me.” [laughs] I mean, I know a lot of people would feel that, so it’s just like whatever we can do to make traffic slow down. It’s amazing people get behind the wheel of a car and all of a sudden their whole attitude changes. You’re walking and it’s a very different attitude. Sorry, I’m on my soapbox. I’m sorry. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: Is it public knowledge that you’re going to run for City Council?
CAMPBELL: Yes. There was an article that came out in the Informer last month [December 2012] and so I guess I’ve talked enough about it. I mean, I know there are other people who are going to run. My hope like anyone else who runs, I hope to win.
DEUTSCH: Of course.
CAMPBELL: I’m going to try my best to win. The other thing is I—you know, there are probably going to be things that are going to come up in this campaign. People are probably going to look for anything negative to say. I don’t intend to do that. It’s not my intention. I mean, I always wonder why a political had to be wrapped around negativity. Why you had to look for dirt. Rats. If you can, and my attitude and my impression, my intent about all of this is if you cannot run on your own merits then you don’t need to run.
DEUTSCH: When is the election?
DEUTSCH: 2014, okay. So you’ve got time to …
CAMPBELL: Yes I’m trying to put everything together now. I mean I just—I never anticipated that I would be a politician. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: You didn’t?
CAMPBELL: This was not; this was not my scheme of things. This was not in my plan. I kind of was; I kind of fell in it or pushed in, however you want to describe it. And it was because of a necessity because I didn’t see things getting done. And I felt that, well if nobody’s going to do it then at least I need to attempt to do it. I think, I like to think that people have re-elected me each term because they felt I was effective in getting the things done and I take a balanced approach. That I make a decision, not based on my personal preferences, but on what is the right decision and what is the right thing to do. So, I mean, it may sound trite, it may sound like [?] to the people, but that’s my feeling. We were elected to this position to give our best judgment on an issue based on the facts with a little bit of common sense and emotion. But again, to do the right thing and not to be pushed by business, not be pushed by our personal preferences, not to be pushed by the hue and cry of the community, but to make a decision based on the facts.
DEUTSCH: Balancing all those things.
CAMPBELL: Balancing all those things. And that’s what I try to do. And I mean again, I’ve said, you know, my personal preferences is, but I wasn’t here—my decision isn’t supposed to be some of my personal preference. In any case, everybody should be a commissioner. And that’s why people like you. They elect you to make a decision that they think will be to the betterment of everyone. You may not always agree. I [unintelligible] I’ll say, you know, hope that you’ll be able to have enough personal backbone to change your mind if I let you made a mistake.
DEUTSCH: Have there been any instances where you’ve done that?
CAMPBELL: Yes, there are. [laughs] There are, like, “Oops, okay. I didn’t have all the information then.” You know, so I’ve gone back and revised my opinion.
DEUTSCH: Do you know of anyone running against you? Any particular person? I mean, do you know, is it—for the City Council?
CAMPBELL: I’m not in a privy to say.
DEUTSCH: I want to go back to something way, way in the past. Didn’t you tell me you worked at Jimmy T’s? [ East Capitol Street and Fifth Street SE]
CAMPBELL: Yes. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: Let’s talk about Jimmy T’s.
CAMPBELL: My memories around that are fuzzy. I remember then though …
DEUTSCH: Was Jimmy T there?
CAMPBELL: I believe so and I believe then at that time a Coke was 35 cents. Breakfast was about a dollar fifty-nine. [Deutsch laughs] You know, I mean that was bacon and eggs, and I mean, you know—it was interesting. I just remember that I worked there and I remember that the prices were fairly cheap and it was, and they was closed by three o’clock.
DEUTSCH: Still is. Still is. It closed at three o’clock every day.
CAMPBELL: [laughs] It was one of those jobs as a teenager, you would think at the time you made good money. I remember when I, I think when I first started to work for McDonald’s I was making 90 cents an hour. And when I left …
DEUTSCH: Was that minimum wage?
CAMPBELL: It was minimum wage then. And I remember when I started working as a respiratory therapist I was making two seventy-four an hour and that was good money. Very good money. When I left the field I was making well over 35 dollars an hour.
CAMPBELL: That shows you how far I—but I mean also then bread was 32 cents a loaf. And you could actually buy a 25 cent candy bar. What you look at now for a dollar was a 10 cent candy bar back then. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: The 10 cent cup of coffee is long gone.
CAMPBELL: Oh, yeah, I used to remember the jingle McDonald’s [?] you could buy a whole meal for 89 cents. You could buy a meal and get change back from your dollar. That was a hamburger, French fries and a Coke. And the cheeseburger, French fries and a Coke was 98 cents. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: Those days are over.
CAMPBELL: Oh, long since gone; yeah, because gas was 15 cents a gallon. And it’s funny to think that when I look back at all of those things, we’re talking 1960. It wasn’t that long ago. I mean I remember my parents bringing in the first TV set. It was black and white. I remember when TV turned to color.
DEUTSCH: Oh I remember that too.
CAMPBELL: I can remember walking up here to the Capitol into the rotunda and taking the spiral staircase back in the rotunda and going down to catch the subway over to the Supreme Court, and sitting up in the balcony and listening to the Supreme Court cases then.
DEUTSCH: When you were a kid?
CAMPBELL: When I was a kid, teenager and young adult then. I walked all over the city. I mean, the streetcars, I rode the streetcars. I remember when they went around the parking garage that’s behind the Hart Building. That was actually the pass through for the streetcars. The streetcars that stopped in front of Union Station. I mean, I remember walking up the monument [Washington Monument] steps and a 10-cent elevator ride in the monument.
DEUTSCH: It’s sort of nice to think of neighborhood kids roaming around the Capitol. I mean, now a days of course it doesn’t happen.
CAMPBELL: You can’t do that now, I mean obviously, but I mean, you know, walking through all of those places, I mean, and telling my kids, “Yeah there’s a staircase there where you can go down. It’s in the rotunda.” And people go, “What?” Those things I remember as a teenager and as a young adult being and having that open access. And obviously now you can’t do it. But that’s the type of things that I miss. I mean, I realize, I mean, I walk through the city now and I feel like it’s an armed fortress. It’s for me it’s very discouraging. I don’t like walking past those places now simply because it detracts from my memories as to how they were and being able to have that freedom, you know, that innocence. And obviously after 9-11 a lot of that changed.
DEUTSCH: I miss the terrace of the Capitol. Remember how we used to be able to walk around the Capitol on that top terrace? I really miss that.
CAMPBELL: I mean, the trees, the lights over the other side, it’s like, you know it’s very different now. And it’s disappointing and disheartening to a certain extent. I understand the rationale, but I don’t like living in an armed fortress. And that’s what I think the city has become. Everywhere you go is a level of suspicion. When you walk in—even when walking into the museums. I meant there was a time when I could walk into the museum and spend hours there. If you spend too much time in one spot then people say, “Can I help you?” [laughs] It’s plain. That’s disheartening. That is, I mean, it’s so—I mean, I’ve seen this city change.
DEUTSCH: And of course some of the changes are for the better.
CAMPBELL: Some are. I mean, I resent the fact that my property—[sighs] that my tax assessment has gone from $200 a year to well over—[laughs] significant amounts, okay. My wife and I used to joke, “I wonder what it’s like living in a home that costs a half a million dollars?”
DEUTSCH: Now you know. [laughs]
CAMPBELL: Well versed. And the same home that I’ve been living in since 1897, since ’77. You know, considerably more that that.
DEUTSCH: I know. It’s weird.
CAMPBELL: I can remember—I was 17 we lived at 1349 South Carolina Avenue [SE]. The lady—and I won’t say her name—but the lady who lived next door at 1351, when her son—1347, I’m sorry—when the son put the house up for sale he offered it to my grandmother for $22,500. She didn’t have the extra $500 so she couldn’t buy that house. I saw it on the market a few years ago went for $839,000. And I was like …
DEUTSCH: Kind of hard to believe.
CAMPBELL: It is. And nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed is now where Bryan School’s playground was, there are houses. There were houses there originally. They tore the houses down to put the playground in. And they put these stanchions [?] for the wading pool and all that in. And then when the school closed they tore all that back up and put houses in.
DEUTSCH: Put new house, yeah.
CAMPBELL: Put them back the way they were.
DEUTSCH: Now, tell me about, you said you are the oldest of nine children?
DEUTSCH: Seven, seven; three sisters and three brothers?
DEUTSCH: And what was that like?
CAMPBELL: Chaos! [both laugh]
DEUTSCH: Yeah, I could have guessed that.
CAMPBELL: It was fun. It was fun. I mean, you know the boys were in one room. My sisters were in another room. My parents were in the back room. My grandmother was in the small room. So you had 10 people living in a house. And I mean, for us it was family. I mean, you know, it was like family dinners was controlled chaos. My mother and my father worked. So my grandmother was the person that was at home when we went to school.
DEUTSCH: She cooked.
CAMPBELL: She cooked. When my momma came in she helped. My dad, I remember—my memory of my dad was standing out in front of the house one day on South Carolina Avenue and watching my dad run down South Carolina Avenue. That’s my most vivid memory because he was on his way to the post office. I watched my father run from 1349 ’til he was out of sight, which was past 11th Street. Because you could stand out front and watch. And I remember my dad running to work. So, I mean, he’s still—my dad’s passed but he’s still fresh in my mind. But I remember him and I remember my mom saying she didn’t just want one child, she wanted several because my momma’s one of seven children. So she wanted seven kids and she says, you know, “I never going to have one child because one child is just not enough,” and there’s all the things [unintelligible]
DEUTSCH: Not enough.
CAMPBELL: And so, I mean, I remember as the oldest helping out with my brothers and sisters when I remember braiding my sister’s hair.
DEUTSCH: I love that.
CAMPBELL: So, I mean, I can still braid. It’s not as easy now because of the carpel tunnel. But I remember, and I still when my niece comes by, braid her hair on occasion. [laughs] They were life skills. I can mend a tear in clothes. I still know how to darn. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: That puts you in very small category.
CAMPBELL: Yes it does.
DEUTSCH: Not too many people—I remember my mother had a darning egg that you stick inside the sock so you can—I wish I still had that.
CAMPBELL: Yep. I remember the one with the little—looks like a little apple. You had the straight pins in it and you drive pin things and I would stitch. I mean if tear something I still know how to hand stitch it. There were life skills that were just part of the things you did then that kind of learn through attrition, that can’t …
DEUTSCH: People don’t do them anymore.
CAMPBELL: They don’t do them anymore, no.
DEUTSCH: Now do some of your sisters and brothers still live around here?
CAMPBELL: All of them. All of them do. I have a sister in Bangor in Southeast [Lower Fairfax Village]. Brother on N Street Southeast. A sister on Independence Avenue who’s in the house we grew up in. We’re on Burke. My sister just recently sold the house at 1349 South Carolina Avenue. So that’s the house my dad grew up in, we still own. The house on 14th Street that my—217 14th Street SE—my family sold that. But my grandmother lived in that house for years. Bart still lives on Massachusetts Avenue.
DEUTSCH: Wow, you’ve got to get some of those people to the dinner.
CAMPBELL: My mom still lives on North Carolina Avenue.
DEUTSCH: And she’s renovating her house?
CAMPBELL: She’s renovating her kitchen now, so my brother still owns his house on 30th Street [SE] as well as N Street [SE]. We inherited the other house that we’re in now, 1800, so we still own the original house we bought at 1805.
DEUTSCH: 1805?
CAMPBELL: Yeah, we own 1805 and 1800 Burke Street. So, I mean, I remember the gentleman whom I bought the house from. At this time I played piano, so I remember when he first mentioned that he was going to sell the house I said, “Okay, you sure?” He said, “Yes.” So I said—so from that time on, which is about a year and a half, I scrimped and saved every penny I could. I walked when I didn’t have any gas. I rode my bike. I saved every nickel and dime to get the down payment. And when his daughter got married—I played for his daughter and I didn’t charge them. So he cut $2,000 off the house price. So I played for his daughter’s wedding. They sold—my wife and I weren’t married at the time—he sold us the house. So I remember I was 27. People asked, “Why are you buying houses?” I said, “Because I don’t want to be in an apartment.” And I knew that the Metro was going to be coming down the street. And I’m thinking at some point the property was going to go up. I didn’t realize it was going to go up as is did [laughs].
DEUTSCH: That much. How’d you learn to play the piano?
CAMPBELL: There was a young lady named Linda Ferris. Linda was a white girl at Holy Comforter. And I used to enjoy the fact that she played Für Elise. And I kept thinking, “Well I could do that.” And so I was 14—it’s kind of late at the time I heard her play. So I started. I took lessons.
DEUTSCH: Uh huh, from her?
CAMPBELL: From the nuns.
DEUTSCH: From the nuns?
CAMPBELL: Yeah, it was a nun and there was a teacher who came in. So I started playing then. And actually was pretty good. I played from the time I was 14 up until I got injured—developed carpel tunnel. I’ve had surgery, so I don’t play anymore. It’s hard, because as a result of the train wreck I broke my neck. I’ve had the knee replacement. I’ve had three surgeries. And I can’t sit at the piano more than 20 minutes without pain, so. I tinker now and then when I can sit. If I medicate I can sit and tinker when nobody’s home. I’ve played organ at St. Monica’s as a relief organist when my aunt isn’t there because my aunts—I have two aunts who played, one is deceased now but Aunt Juanita was the organist at St. Monica’s, so I would go over there and play. My biggest thrill—it got to the point when Aunt—they gave me the keys. I would borrow her keys and go into the church. And I would sit at the organ. I’d play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor at two o’clock in the morning and it was …
DEUTSCH: Oh my goodness!
CAMPBELL: The church was removed enough away from …
DEUTSCH: You weren’t bothering anyone.
CAMPBELL: Right. And so my biggest thing would be to come into the church—the biggest thrill of my life was to go into the church and turn the light on over the organ and that would be the only light, and to sit and play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. [laughs] My family has always—there are two things I enjoy, that’s music and reading. My family has always said, you know, if Michael’s sitting at the—my middle name is Michael. My dad’s name was Francis Joseph. Mine is Francis Michael, so I was Michael for everybody in the family. He was Francis. My momma used to say, “Michael’s sitting at the piano. You have to touch him.” Because I would get lost in the music and I would be completely oblivious to everything around me. And if I was reading, because I would get lost in the book, literally. They would say, “How can you do that.” Well working in the hospital—I mean, you had to remember that I worked in the ICU so there was a lot of high tension areas, high stress areas. And my release was a book, music. So that was what it was. And I would get lost in it.
DEUTSCH: What do you like to read?
CAMPBELL: Sci-Fi fantasy. I had to deal with reality.
DEUTSCH: You had enough reality in life.
CAMPBELL: I had enough reality in life. You know, if I get into knocks, I had more, I’ve had more than enough reality in my life. Unfortunately I had been around a number of relatives that have died and had been a person who said, “Okay that’s it.” Had enough traumatic family experiences where I’ve kind of like, you know, I was a counselor in a program that—a summer program where we found a deceased person who’d been in an extremely hot apartment after 10 days.
DEUTSCH: Oh dear!
CAMPBELL: So I said, “There’s certain smells … ” [laughs]
DEUTSCH: That I was thinking, that must have been one of the smells.
CAMPBELL: I’ve been with burn patients, you know …
CAMPBELL: Like I said at the time the only school that was, that had any specialty at all was McKinley. And McKinley at the time had arts program, music program. So I applied and was accepted to McKinley’s piano program. I had a run in with the preeminent teacher at the time who cracked me across my knuckles with a ruler because I made a mistake. And after the second time my response was colorful. [both laugh]
DEUTSCH: And enough to get you transferred to Eastern.
CAMPBELL: Enough to get me transferred to Eastern. So that’s why I went to Eastern because it was my district school. I was out of boundary. It was my boundary school then. McKinley was my out of boundary school.
DEUTSCH: And at Eastern you did music?
CAMPBELL: Yeah, I played for the chorus. I sang in the choir. I was, took part in the acting classes and I enjoyed that. Actually …
DEUTSCH: Was Miss Garrett there then?
CAMPBELL: Miss Payne was a teacher there. Miss Payne was a very large woman who played piano. She was very talented but people with kids made fun of Miss Payne because she was very big. But Miss Payne was a very talented woman who seemed to find the best in all of her kids. I was—I can across—my mom called me the other day and I went back and found—took all the old records out of the house and I came across an old album—the DC Youth Chorale. I sang in the DC Youth Chorale and my name is actually on as one of the participants and the tenor. I was first tenor. One of the first tenors in the DC Youth Chorale at the time. You know, I have a recording. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: That’s incredible!
CAMPBELL: So I tell my kids, ‘Yes, your dad was in the DC Youth Chorale back then too.’
DEUTSCH: What were you singing? What are you singing on the record?
CAMPBELL: I wasn’t a soloist. I was a first tenor, so I was listed as one of the first tenors.
DEUTSCH: Yeah, but what was the song?
CAMPBELL: I’m trying to remember now. I can’t remember if we were doing the Kyrie Eleison and the B Minor Mass. I can’t remember. I have to go back and look at the album. It was classics.
DEUTSCH: Classical
CAMPBELL: Yes, I believe it was. The Kyrie Eleison and Bach’s B Minor. I was—I’ve had a colorful life.
DEUTSCH: You certainly have! You’re like a renaissance man.
CAMPBELL: I’ve had some—I wish there were some way of going back and doing some of those things a little bit better, but I’ve enjoyed it. I really have enjoyed it, so. With all of those things it’s—I guess why my wife and I have always tried to tell our kids, you know, ‘Experience everything, because, you know, you want to look back on these things and have great memories. Every memory isn’t going to be pleasant, but you’re going to have some great experiences.’ The most thing I proud of is my children. The fact that they—meaning no disrespect to anyone, but the fact is that for so long there’s an attitude, and even into today there’s an attitude that young black men are not about positive things. I have young black men who have not only gone to school, gone to college, graduated from college, are living productive lives, have great jobs, have met great women—my two older sons are involved with—I have one granddaughter, but they have great spouses. My oldest has been on the honor roll since he’s been in high school. And he brought me his report card the other day and he says, “Dad, you know, he’s been cum laude …
DEUTSCH: You mean your youngest?
CAMPBELL: My youngest, I’m sorry. My youngest is Jordan, has been on the honor roll every semester he’s been at Eastern. He’s been in the cum laude division. He brought me his report the other day. He says, you know, he was so proud that he finally got a B+ in math. And he says, ‘I’m going to make magna cum laude.’ It was like, told you he could do it. He’s had a C+ in his math. He says—and he’s one of those that it’s interesting that all through years has said, ‘Math has never been my strongest suit. I said I do stuff in my head now.’ He is—he takes it far beyond anything I’ve done. My kids I used to draw because I used to do the drawings at Christmas at the hospital when we did our Christmas decorations. My kids far exceed any of that talent. Everything that I had, my paintbrushes, all my paints, all my colors, my sons have taken. They have taken everything that I’ve done, that my wife has done and have taken to a degree far beyond. I don’t buy art because all my art is stuff that my children have done. I do buy art from Duke Ellington students. All the art that I have is from my sons and from the students there. I tell people all the time, ‘The kids took their good looks and their brains from their mother. [Deutsch laughs] They took their personalities from me.’ And that’s not always a great thing.
DEUTSCH: But is sounds like it served them well.
CAMPBELL: Yeah they’ve taken now to telling they took their brains and good looks from their momma, they took the talent from me. Because they have, again, they have taken, since I drew, they have far beyond exceeded everything that I ever did. So I’m extremely proud of my children. They are—if anything, that I would walk through a door and say I couldn’t get through because of the swelling of my head, it would be because of my sons. [laughs]
DEUTSCH: I think that’s a good place to end.