A Life Lived: Music was the language Bo Campbell spoke best
Published 12:21 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2023
Music is all around us intersecting our lives, regulating our moods, and bringing good vibes to those who are listening. It allows us to feel all the emotions that we experience in our lives. James Spencer “Bo’ Campbell’s life was a song, and he never grew tired of singing Christian hymns or listening to them.
Bo, as he was known to his friends, had a pianist — his wife, Jo Ann — by his side most of his life. They had a music room in their house which contained a collection of music. For a number of years Bo was choir director at Elizabethton First Free Will Baptist Church and Jo Ann was pianist. And, he practically knew the hymnbook by heart. At Bo’s funeral, his life was celebrated with the singing of several hymns led by Grady and Aleshia Holder. Among the hymns sung to name a few were “He Touched Me,” “Love Lifted Me,” “Blessed Assurance” “ Victory in Jesus,” and “Unclouded Day.”
Bo also sang for a time with the Atonement Quartet, which was composed of Big Lew Garrison, Bo, John Holder, and Dick Hampton. Their pianist was sometimes Jo Ann, but most of the time it was Bo’s daughter, Cathy Curtis, who shared at his funeral that the group paid her $20 each time she played for them.
Needless to say, the First Free Will Baptist choir was quite a group back then with Big Lou singing tenor. The choir was known for such songs as “I’ll Meet You In The Morning,” and “Sheltered In The Arms of God.”
Bo’s daughter, Cathy, shared that her daddy was one of 10 children raised in a two-bedroom house at the very end of Cat Island. He attended Elizabethton High School, where he was an outstanding athlete in both basketball and track. He was an all-state guard in basketball. He later refereed some.
Bo also was a veteran. Cathy shared that when her dad was stationed at Fort Lee, Va., in the U.S. Army he would hitchhike home (coming and going) every weekend to see his sweetheart, Jo Ann. “They had a deep devotion to one another,” she shared.
She described her dad as “independent and full of himself. He was a good daddy and supported us in what we wanted to do. He was my brother Marc’s biggest fan when he played basketball.”
She shared that when Marc played basketball at Clemson, her parents along with their uncle Bob and wife, Judy, never missed a home game. And, they attended a lot of away games as well.
Phil Poston, a former pastor at Elizabethton First Free Will, who conducted Bo’s funeral, noted that Bo was very competitive. He wanted to win. The preacher said that he went on a few deep-sea fishing trips with Bo, and “he always wanted to be first out the door on the boat and get the best spot to fish, and he wanted to catch fish.”
Several times he brought his “catch” home and shared it at a fish fry with the church’s Adult Activity group.
Poston noted that Bo, in addition to his love for music and his competitiveness, was a very kind person, who loved his family, was so proud of them. “He loved Jo Ann. He loved God, and he loved God’s music.”
Bo was well-known around town, and he was an insider. He was part of the group that met daily during the week in the back of Lingerfelt Drug Center. Before that, it was Luke Brumit’s, David-Lynn’s, and Dino’s. He knew everybody and everybody knew Bo.
He was known in church circles for his work on church pews. For many years he owned and operated Church Pew Padding by Campbell and had been in the upholstery business since 1950. Cathy said that when she rode with him, he would spot churches along the way and quickly he would say, “I did the pews in that church.” He did work for churches all over East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and Southwest Virginia.
Bo leaves behind his daughters, Cathy and Jo Ellen, a son, Marc, six grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.
A part of Bo died when his wife Jo Ann died in April 2021. He spent his last days at Ivy Hall Nursing Home. Today he’s happy because he’s home, a place he sung about and had a longing for. Although Bo’s no longer with us, his music remains as well as the promise: “I’ll meet you in the morning.”