CAMPBELL, THOMAS F. (13 Sept.1924- 24 Nov. 2003) was a prominent Cleveland civic and cultural activist who, as Professor of History at Cleveland State University from 1966-1993, co-founded the Institute of Urban Studies at CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY, which was the forerunner of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs. One of seven children, he was born to Thomas and Brigid Campbell in Enniskillen, a small island town in the Loch Erne region of County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland.
Campbell’s life took an unexpected turn, when at the end of sixth grade his parents were told that he was such a poor student that further formal education would be wasted on him. So Tom was apprenticed to a baker. It was later discovered he had simply needed glasses. So hungry was he for knowledge, he began to read voraciously in the evenings and even on work breaks, which earned him the nickname "Shakespeare." He also had some success as a marathon runner and welterweight boxer and got interested in politics, serving as the poll watcher whose job—as he loved to tell it in later years—was to make sure the other party's "dead" didn't vote.
After World War II, Campbell worked with the Quaker-sponsored Friends Ambulance Unit to assist refugees in Germany and England; service as a Quaker volunteer brought him to North America in 1953 under the sponsorship of a family that lived outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During his first week in Philadelphia, he met his future wife Marguerite Brown, a native Clevelander who was a Middlebury College graduate and a fellow volunteer at a Friends Service Committee training program. He spent a summer working with the elderly in the poor neighborhoods of Washington, D.C., and also helped to build roads and public health clinics in Mexico. Campbell later credited his volunteer experience with inspiring him to think about how cities are built and rebuilt. When his service concluded, he returned to Philadelphia with the aim of becoming a US citizen. Attending Temple University High School at night, he earned a high school equivalency degree while working as a baker and striking to organize a bakers union.
In 1955, he moved to Cleveland, and married Marguerite in June 1956. While working as a gardener in Cleveland Heights, he began attending Western Reserve University (now CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY). By 1966 he had earned B.A., M.A., and PhD degrees in history from WRU. He was a teaching assistant and lecturer at WRU and became assistant professor of History at Ohio State University in 1963. He joined the faculty of the Department of History at Cleveland State University in 1966, where he served until his retirement in 1993. At Cleveland State University, he introduced a popular Cleveland History course to the History Department curriculum and counted many future public servants as his students. Campbell co-founded the Institute of Urban Studies at Cleveland State University in 1967 and served as the Institute’s Director from 1969 to 1975. The Institute was elevated to college status in 1977 and became known as the Maxine Goodman Levin College Of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.
Campbell became deeply involved in the Cleveland community. His introduction to the CITY CLUB OF CLEVELAND took place when he was working as a gardener. His employer invited him into the house at lunchtime to listen to the weekly City Club Forum on the radio. Campbell would become an active member of the City Club, serving as its president 1970-71, and making a passionate case for the admission of women members at the Club's 1972 debate on that question, which evoked the words of the great Irish leader Charles Stewart Parnell: no one has the right to say to an aspiring people, "thus far, and no further, shall ye come." Campbell wrote the history of the club-- Freedom's Forum: The City Club of Cleveland (1963)—and was elected to the City Club Hall of Fame.
Campbell coordinated two levy campaigns for the CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY, participated in a Five County Mass Transit Study Group, chaired AIM-Jobs, a manpower training program for inner-city adults and youths, and served as chairman of the Governor's Judicial Nominating Council for the Eighth Court of Appeals District. He served on the Cleveland City Council Campaign Committee, and the Cleveland Comprehensive Educational and Training Act (CETA) Planning Council. In 1977 he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Mayor of Cleveland and then helped spearhead the narrowly defeated 1978 RECALL campaign against Cleveland Mayor DENNIS KUCINICH.
Campbell served as trustee of the Nationalities Service Center; the adult literacy program Project LEARN; Friends of the Cleveland Public Library; Cleveland Human Relations Congress; KARAMU HOUSE; GREAT LAKES THEATER; the Greater Cleveland Council for Human Relations, and Americans for Democratic Action. He spearheaded the formation of The African American History Archives of the WESTERN RESERVE HISTORICAL SOCIETY in 1970 and was a founding member of the African American Archives Auxiliary at WRHS; he cofounded and served as the first president of the Cleveland Restoration Society in 1972; helped to found the Friends of SHAKER SQUARE in 1976; and founded the Irish American Archives Society in 1994. In 1997, he launched the Irish American Archives Society’s annual Walks of Life Awards, which he received in 2003 and which continue to recognize individuals of Irish heritage who have made extraordinary contributions to the community.
Campbell authored numerous scholarly publications on the topics of immigration and Cleveland history, including Daniel E. Morgan, 1877-1949: The Good Citizen in Politics and SASS: Fifty Years of Social Work Education - A History of the School of Applied Social Sciences. He contributed chapters to Snowbelt Cities, edited by Richard Bernard, and Introduction to Urban Studies edited by Roberta Steinbacher and Virginia Benson, and an article, “The Irish in Ohio” to The Encyclopedia of the Irish in America as well as numerous entries for the Dictionary of American Mayors and The Dictionary of Cleveland Biography. He was Project Director of the multi-year Cleveland Heritage Program of the Cleveland Public Library with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which culminated in an essay anthology that Campbell co-edited, The Birth of Modern Cleveland (1988). He developed and co-hosted 16 television shows portraying Cleveland ethnic communities, "We Who Built America."
Campbell and Marguerite (“Peggy”) had two children, Thomas F. Campbell Jr. and Ellen Healy Campbell (dec). Campbell died in 2003 and was buried in Fowler’s Mill Cemetery in Chardon Township, near the family’s summer cottage.