Robert Campbell Jr., 80; Foreign Service Officer
By Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 30, 2004; Page B06
Robert Alexander Campbell Jr., 80, who traveled the world as a career Foreign Service officer and worked on education programs in the United States, died of cardiac arrest May 30 at Inova Alexandria Hospital. He lived in Falls Church.
Mr. Campbell joined the Foreign Service in the mid-1950s and served overseas under three presidents in the Philippines, Libya and Australia. Over the years, he served as political and military officer, economic officer and consular officer. He left the State Department in 1965 as a second secretary, counsel, to return to the Washington area.
He then worked for a number of organizations, many of them involved with education. Among his employers were the Mid-Atlantic Regional Educational Laboratory, the Association of Data Processing Service Organizations and the city of Philadelphia, which he represented on school issues in Washington. He retired in the 1980s.
During his diplomatic career, Mr. Campbell relished meeting people from all walks of life and learning about other cultures. He lived through earthquakes, typhoons, tidal waves, sandstorms, southerly busters and brush fires.
His first overseas assignment was to the U.S. Embassy in Manila in 1956. Mr. Campbell smoothed the way for the return of a battle flag, captured in the Spanish-American War, to Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, a leader of the Philippine insurrections against Spanish and U.S. occupation. In turn, the general hosted Mr. Campbell and his family at his compound several times during their tour, said his daughter, Karen Leigh Campbell of Falls Church.
In Tripoli, Libya, Mr. Campbell and his family took in stride a lack of amenities. "Electricity and water were limited, but opportunities to learn abounded," his daughter recounted. Mr. Campbell took his family to explore the ruins of the Greeks, Romans, Turks, Knights of Malta and Italians. They witnessed the influence of the new wealth that came with the discovery of oil.
"The greatest adventure came in meeting the fascinating people, from those in the old city to tribes in the desert," the daughter said.
Mr. Campbell also helped to establish a Christian church while in Tripoli.
After a brief time at the United Nations, Mr. Campbell was assigned to Sydney, where he dealt with trade matters. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Mr. Campbell and his wife made frequent trips throughout New South Wales to participate in dedications in honor of the late president.
Mr. Campbell was born in North Arlington, N.J., to parents who had emigrated from Ireland after World War I. He came to Washington when he received a Masonic Foreign Service scholarship to attend George Washington University, from which he graduated after service in World War II.
He served in the Marine Corps in the Pacific during the occupation of Japan, ending with the rank of major. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War.
Mr. Campbell was an elder and trustee at National Presbyterian Church in Washington.
His memberships included the Sea Scouts, Copestone (Masonic) Lodge, the American Club of Sydney, Lakewood Country Club, the Capitol Hill Club and Diplomatic and Counselor Officers Retired (DACOR).
Mr. Campbell would regale children and adults with stories, jokes, riddles and the characters he created with puppets and toys. He also loved to dance.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 56 years, Helen Zott Campbell of Falls Church; another daughter, Debra Campbell Fowler of Herndon; and three grandchildren.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company