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In Memoriam: Jackson Justice Campbell (1920-1994)


A Remembrance by Joseph B. Trahern Jr., University of Tennessee, and Patrick Hermann, University of Alabama

Jack Campbell, Professor of English emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, died of cancer at home in Champaign on October 18, 1994. Born in Oklahoma on January 9, 1920, he received the A.B. at Yale in 1941, the AM. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946, and the Ph.D. at Yale in 1950. He taught at Yale from 1948-51, at Illinois from 1951-54, at Princeton from 1954-64, and again at Illinois from 1964 until his retirement.

Jack Campbell's major publications included the Yale Shakespeare edition of Troilus and Cressida (1955), The Advent Lyrics of the Exeter Book, Princeton (1958), and a number of highly influential articles, including "The Dialect Vocabulary of the Old English Bede" (JEGP, 1951), "Learned Rhetoric in Old English Poetry" (Modern Philology, 1966), and "Cynewulf's Multiple Revelations" (Medievalia et Humanistica, 1972). A glance at the highly selective bibliography in the Greenfield-Calder New Critical History of Old English Literature will show that only a small handful of American scholars are cited more frequently.

Despite his own substantial accomplishments, which he never seemed to count for much, Jack was inordinately proud of the scholarly achievements of his students; it is doubtful that anyone in recent years directed as many dissertations in Old English as he. And given the fact that Old English was required at both Princeton and Illinois in the early years he taught there, his students included literally dozens of the major scholars of our generation, including the substantial number of distinguished medievalists working under D.W. Robertson, Jr. in the late 1950's and early 1960's and a goodly number of medievalists who came out of Illinois under the tutelage of Jack, Robert E. Kaske, and Richard Green.

A moving and altogether upbeat memorial service for Jack was held at the University of Illinois on November 5, 1994. Jack's daughter and his two sons welcomed guests, played some of Jack's favorite Bach on the piano, and reminisced about their father. Marcia Dalbey, Martin Camargo, Jane Chance, Ray Farrar, Frank Hodgins, Kenneth Kinnamon, and Joe Trahern all spoke. It is impossible to list all of the students Campbell influenced, but among them, in addition to those named above, are: Edward Donald Kennedy, Catherine Regan, John Conlee, Robert Lucas, Spenser Cosmos, Thomas Hall, Willard Rusch, Michael Phillips, Pamela Clements, Mark Allen, Patricia Hollahan, Donald Bzdyl, Allan Robb, Richard Trask, Gene Crook, Daniel Poteet, Douglas Butturff, Patrick Geohegan, Judith Newton, Theodore Buermann, Patrick Gallagher, and James Doubleday.

All Jack's students and colleagues wanted to share in his gift of brio – his energy, vitality, and brilliance. And we wanted to learn more about soul and spirit, not only as mod and hyge, but in their modern incarnations as well. How large-hearted Jack was, how deeply his words could pierce, how rich were his joys, how deeply etched were the lines on his face, how completely was his life given over to the cultivation of soul and spirit and of mind. In The Battle of Maldon, one of the poems Jack introduces so gracefully and succinctly in his anthology Poems in Old English, the first person to speak upon the death of the heroic and beloved chieftain Byrhtnoth is Ælfwine, who laments a two-fold loss: me is þæt hearma mæst; he wæs ægðer min mæg and min hlaford. These words still speak for countless numbers of his former students and colleagues.

OEN 28.3 (1995): 8.