Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Falwell Museum curator watching over history

Dave Campbell, museum host and curator, sits Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in a decoratively furnished chair just behind those double doors of the Jerry Falwell Museum.

The museum tells the story of Liberty University’s great founder Jerry Falwell, and, tucked inside the dimly lit corner of the museum’s entrance, Dave Campbell is yet another hidden iconic figure of Liberty.

“I will be here every morning,” Campbell said. “Unless it’s raining. I don’t come in when it’s raining.”

Generally, a coffee cup rests politely on the table between the two chairs while a simple table lamp illuminates his corner of the room. The empty chair beside him beckons company from students, faculty and visitors as they take the time to reap his precious wisdom.

Campbell, who is a former hotel manager and retired banker for the City of Lynchburg, has been a member of the Liberty University staff family for eight years. Campbell genuinely appears to have enjoyed his time at the university and looks forward to many more years on staff.

Revisiting the past — Dave Campbell has been serving Liberty and educating visitors about its history since being hired by Jerry Falwell Jr. Photo credit: Dominique McKay

Nolan Burton and his wife Pat visit the Jerry Falwell museum often and enjoy spending time with the employees. Both Nolan and Pat Burton can attest to what an enjoyable man Campbell is and what a valuable asset he has become to Liberty through the years. Their visits are often sparked by the hope of his company.

“Dave Campbell…that says it all,” Nolan Burton said. “He is true to who he is all the time. He has such a heart for people.”
The Burtons represent only a couple of people touched by the life of Dave Campbell. When asked how he obtained the position of museum curator, Campbell smiled reflectively.

“Jerry Falwell Jr. called me and said they were going to be building a museum for his dad and wanted to know if I would come and work for them,” Campbell said. “And I said, ‘When do you want me to start?’”

Campbell considered Jerry Falwell Sr. to be a dear friend, his best friend in fact, and was more than willing to do anything to carry on his history.
“How about Monday morning at 8 o’clock?” Campbell recalls Jerry Falwell Jr. saying.

“I will be there,” Campbell had said. “Anything I can do to help carry out your dad’s legacy. I want to be there.”

Campbell smiled as he reached back into the archives of his memory to pull out his favorite times with Falwell Sr. He folded his hands as he explained that there are so many good memories that it was difficult to pick only one.

“Being with him at the ball games,” Campbell said after a long reflective pause. “When we went to the baseball and football games we had a lot of fun together.”

The memories led Campbell to talk about his own passion for sports and how much fun he could remember having playing them as a young man.

“I am a sports nut,” Campbell said. “I played baseball, basketball and track. Oh yeah, I liked football too.”

Morgan Long, Spencer Fuller and John Graves are each student workers at the Jerry Falwell Museum, working alongside Campbell on a daily basis. The consensus among the men was that Campbell knows more about sports than anyone they had ever met.

“He knows so much about sports it’s ridiculous,” Fuller said. “Even current sports stuff. That’s mostly what we talk about
every day from 8:30 to 12:30.”

Campbell explained that he liked baseball the best of all the sports he played growing up. He played the position of shortstop and was even awarded a spot in the Lynchburg Hall of Fame for his athleticism.

While Campbell loves talking about his sports memories, it is obvious he would rather tell visitors about his family.
“I have been married 65 years,” Campbell said.

Campbell met his wife while they were both students at Lynchburg College.

“I have a daughter, a son, three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren,” Campbell said.

Campbell has lived in the Lynchburg area for his whole life and considers it to be a great place to live. Before Campbell began working in the banking industry, he was offered an opportunity to work as a secret service agent for the United States government. However, he realized that working for the secret service would have taken him from his family and out of the Lynchburg area, so he declined.

“He is quite the family man,” Pat Burton said.

Campbell is also a World War II veteran and was enlisted to travel overseas at the age of 18.
“I am a very patriotic person,” Campbell said.

When you ask students and faculty around Liberty what the most striking thing about Campbell is, the most common response tends to be his impressive ability to strike up a conversation about anything with anyone.

“I’m in ROTC, so it’s interesting to hear all his world World War II stories,” said Graves. “Even if I have heard the story a couple of times, I still learn something I didn’t know before.”

In the rush between classes or after jogging up the steps leading into the grand lobby of DeMoss, each student would benefit from taking the time to sit with Campbell. He has seen a lot of things from his quiet corner—none of which he has taken for granted.

Campbell is described by many people in a variety of affectionate ways. The common thread remains that Dave Campbell is a man who has always loved people. He loves to talk, but loves listening even more.

Campbell enjoys talking with students and invites anyone who wants to visit with him to take a few minutes to occupy the vacant chair beside him inside the museum. Just remember, if it is raining, Dave Campbell will not be there.

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