Lawyer and former DA Campbell dead at 59|[11/24/07]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 24, 2007

Francis Joseph “Frank” Campbell, a former district attorney and longtime Vicksburg lawyer, died Friday, Nov. 23, 2007, at his home. He was 59.

Campbell died of an apparent heart attack around 3 p.m., said Warren County Coroner Doug Huskey.

For 11 years, Campbell was district attorney for the 9th Circuit District, which covers Warren, Claiborne, Sharkey and Issaquena counties. He served from 1980 until 1991 before resigning in January of that year and entering private practice, where he continued to work until his death.

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“Dad was one of those guys that just made everyone happier by being around him,” said William F. Campbell, the oldest of Campbell’s three sons. “He treated everyone with respect. It’s a huge loss. He was a wise man, and he just did a lot of good things for this town.”

During his tenure as district attorney, Campbell handled thousands of cases, including the shotgun murder of a pizza delivery man, the killing of a toddler by her mother and the butcher-knife slaying of two Port Gibson women.

A 1966 graduate of St. Aloysius High School, he attended Mississippi State and transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi where he graduated in 1970. He continued on to the University of Mississippi and graduated with a law degree in 1973. He returned to Vicksburg and married the former Carole Blackledge.

In 1980, Campbell was hired as assistant district attorney under George Chaney, who resigned as DA in October 1980. Campbell was appointed to Chaney’s post and, two months later, was elected to the spot. In 1990, he ran for circuit court judge, but lost and returned to private practice. In 1986, he served a term as president of the Mississippi State Prosecutors Association. He was also president of the Warren County Bar Association.

“I never thought of myself as a career prosecutor,” Campbell told The Vicksburg Post in a 1991 interview. “I don’t want the personal responsibility for 250 felonies a year.”

A young deputy when Campbell was elected in 1980, Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace described him as a man of “great integrity” and a “very effective prosecutor and attorney.”

“He will certainly be missed by the community,” Pace said.

Reached at home late Friday afternoon, outgoing 9th Circuit District Attorney Gil Martin said much the same. “I sure am sorry. He was a good lawyer, and he’ll be missed.”

Martin was elected district attorney in 1992, following the short term of Bob Moran, who was appointed interim DA by then Gov. Bob Mabus to fill the spot by vacated by Campbell’s resignation.

Incoming District Attorney Ricky Smith, who defeated Martin for the spot earlier this month, is a partner in Campbell’s law firm, as is Campbell’s brother, Jerry Campbell.

Campbell was a member of First Baptist Church and enjoyed woodworking, old cars and antiques. “He could do chests of drawers or smaller pieces,” said his son William F. Campbell. “Personally, I’m just going to miss being around him.”

Bobby Bailess, a Vicksburg lawyer and president of the Mississippi Bar Association, agreed.

“He was a great family man,” said Bailess. “I knew him pretty much all my life.”

Campbell was preceded in death by his parents, William H. Campbell and Jane Fisher Campbell; and a brother, John F. Campbell.

In addition to his wife, son and brother, Campbell is survived by two other sons, Lane Campbell and Matthew Campbell, who are both attending Ole Miss; a sister, Mary Stewart of Carlisle, Pa.; and a daughter-in-law, Leigh Campbell, wife of his oldest son.

Glenwood Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.