My Friend Mr. Campbell: 1923 ‐ 2013

Editor's Letter

By Jack Houvouras

I will never forget the first time I played a round of golf with Bill Campbell. It was the winter of 1990 and I was in Florida visiting my parents when Campbell, who weeks earlier had written me a kind note congratulating me on the debut of this magazine, invited me to join him at the renowned Seminole Golf Club. I never imagined walking the course that day with one of golf’s greatest amateurs would lead to a 24-year friendship. As we strolled the fairways that border the Atlantic Ocean, we talked about a lot of things. But the topic that interested Campbell the most was Huntington and its future. It became readily apparent that he loved his hometown and was fiercely proud of both it and the state of West Virginia. I remember asking him why, at the age of 67, he still worked and lived in Huntington most of the year.

“I’m there because to me it’s home,” he said with that deep, soft voice. “I feel like I’m carrying on my family’s heritage. I like the friendliness of Huntington. I like the way people rally around you if you have troubles. Most of the world moves at too fast a pace. I think those of us who live in Huntington have worked hard, but we still take time to be friends.”

By the time we reached the 18th green, we had forged a bond through our mutual love of Huntington and the game of golf. Over the years we shared a dozen or more rounds of golf at Seminole, and our friendship grew. Whenever we saw each other he would insist that I call him Bill, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. To me he was, and will always be, Mr. Campbell. I recall one particular year having the shanks, and I was beside myself with how poorly I was playing. Walking down the last fairway of the day, he put his hand on my shoulder and kindly remarked, “Jack, this too shall pass.”

In June, I saw Mr. Campbell for the last time at his downtown Huntington office when I interviewed him for an article in Kingdom Magazine. While his tall, athletic frame had rounded a bit and his gait had slowed considerably, his mind was still razor sharp. Our chat centered mainly around golf, but at one point I asked the man who has epitomized what it means to be a gentleman what the word meant to him.

Courtesy, caring, forgiving,” he said. “Being interested in things bigger than yourself.”

In the nearly 25 years I have been a professional writer, I have had the good fortune to meet a number of intriguing and accomplished people from across the country. None of them rank higher in my estimation than Huntington’s own Bill Campbell.

In 2010 I penned a cover story on Mr. Campbell for the Huntington Quarterly, and after it was published I received a letter from my old friend. In it he humbly thanked me for my efforts and noted how I wrote with both my “head and heart.” He then concluded by saying, “I have lived a good life, and you are one of the reasons why. If anyone was to relate it, I am happy it was you. Proudly your friend, Bill.” I framed that letter, and it now hangs on my office wall. It is without question one of my most prized possessions.

While I will miss my friend, the lessons he taught me over the years will carry on. Whenever I stand when a woman enters a room, I will think of him. Whenever I remove my hat and shake a friend’s hand after a round of golf, I will think of him. And whenever I am away from Huntington and start to miss my hometown, I will recall with fondness the bond we shared.

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