Leroy Campbell was a man who loved his family and knew how to entertain them, says sister Ann Sanders. Campbell, a painting contractor, always had those characteristics, she says. The broad-brimmed hats he loved, and that nobody wore quite like him, came later, she says.
Campbell also had a very strict work ethic, Sanders says. He was a hard-working entrepreneur who always insisted that family members do something significant with their lives.
Things weren’t easy for him. At 13, Campbell and his family were living on Wadmalaw Island when his father died and the family moved to Charleston, says Sanders. While growing up on the peninsula, Campbell, the third eldest of his mother’s 11 children, helped raise his younger brothers and sisters.
Sanders’ daughter, Angie Ravenel, says she will never forget the image of him, all of his children and his grandchildren having fun at the fair. It’s an example of how much family meant to him. But that is hardly the only memory Ravenel holds dear.
Campbell died April 5 at age 65.
“I will miss his great smile and great attitude. I felt liberated when I saw his smile. He was always asking how we were doing. It was always a good visit when I went to see him. He was always one who liked to put a couple of dollars in your hand when we were younger.
“He was a fun person, full of life,” Ravenel says. “The energy, the dancing. He always liked to dance with his sisters. They knew that if he was going to dance he was going to do the split as well. I think he would have given James Brown a run for his money. Oh, man! It was something you had to see.”
Campbell, who counted Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “Get on the Good Foot” among his favorite songs, loved to dance since he was a boy, says Sanders.
Dancing was something he picked up from his older brother.
Doing the split in particular came from Campbell’s admiration of Brown and a performance by the entertainer he attended at the Apollo Theatre in New York, says Sanders.
But he added his own twist. “When we had a big get-together, everybody would be at his house,” Sanders says.
He always gave birthday parties for each of his children at his house, even after they became adults, she says.
He sometimes would entertain them in a second house on his property that he named the Campbell Shack.
“The last time we were in there, he was playing the ‘Honky Tonk,’ ” Sanders says. “When he was a boy, he was a guitar man. He taught himself to play.”
And those hats. “Nobody could wear a brim like him,” Sanders says. “He liked the big hats. They called him Royal Crown. It’s one of the things people mentioned most at his funeral,” says Sanders.
“The best thing I remember was his smile. He walked up with a smile on his face.
“My image of my brother is being a strong black man and taking care of his family. He deserves all and more.”
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.