Carlos Clinton Campbell, Sr.

Copyright (2002) * All rights reserved
J.C. (Jim) Tumblin, OD, DOS
3604 Kesterwood Drive, East
Knoxville, Tennessee 37918-2557
(865) 687-1948

Fountain Citians Who Made A Difference

Carlos Clinton Campbell, Sr.


Photographic Archives, Knoxville News-Sentinel


Carlos C. Campbell was born August 6, 1892 in the Sevier County community of Kodak, within sight of Mt. LeConte. After his reluctant first hike to Mt. LeConte in October 1924, Mr. Campbell was hooked. His enthusiasm for the mountains sparked that day was extinguished only by his death in 1978, at age 86 (1).  (Arrants, 1999)

Fountain City has earned a reputation for producing published authors--perhaps a greater number than any other section of Knox County. Among those authors are such newspaper columnists as Bob (Scoop) Cunningham (Adair Gardens), Lucy Curtis Templeton (Curtis Lane), Lee Morgan Davis (Fountain Road), Homer Clonts (Grove Park), Josephine Breeding (Adair Gardens), and the modern day author, Don Ferguson (Beverly Acres).

Over thirty books were written by Fountain City authors; including Claudius M. Capps (Tazewell Pike), Gideon H. Morgan (Fountain Road), Judge John W. Green (Ridgeview II on Black Oak Ridge), Nannie Lee Hicks (Colonial Circle), Harvey Broome (Broadway and later Mountaincrest Drive), Hardin Davant Hanahan (Bedford Oaks),  Joseph B. Gorman (Harrill Hills), Bruce R. McCampbell (Old Fountain City) and Edith Wilson Hutton (Beverly Acres). Carlos C. Campbell is a worthy addition to that list of authors. He made a difference in the lives of Fountain Citians and many others, particularly those interested in our Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its wildflowers.

As his granddaughter, Rebecca Campbell Arrants, stated in the epigraph above, Carlos Campbell hiked the Smoky Mountains first in 1922 and 1924. As a result he zealously promoted the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the date of his death. 

His major work was, Birth of a National Park in the Great Smoky Mountains, written in 1960 and reprinted three times, the last time in 1984. The book describes the many obstacles that had to be overcome and the campaign that eventually resulted in the establishment of the park in 1934 with the allotment of $1,555,000 from the Federal Government, thanks to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his administration. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. contributed $5 Million in honor of his mother, Laura Spellman Rockefeller. Significant sums were contributed by the state governments in both North Carolina and Tennessee on the condition that the Park would never charge an admission fee (2-43).

Carlos Campbell was the first of seven children of George Marshall Campbell and Reba Moore Campbell. Born near Kodak in Sevier County on August 6, 1892, he attended elementary school there but the family moved to Knoxville when he was 12. After completing grade school in Knoxville, he attended Knoxville Central High School graduating in 1912. 

At the urging of his uncle, who was a general physician, Carlos entered the Lincoln Memorial Medical School (then located in Knoxville) and attended for one year. While studying Gray’s Anatomy one evening, he noted a nine- page passage of very fine print devoted to the description of just the outside of the human liver. He later would say, "That was too detailed for my rambling nature." That night medicine lost one who could have become a learned, compassionate physician and the conservation movement gained an able and staunch advocate (3).

After working briefly as a salesman, a mill hand at Mascot and writing for a weekly newspaper, The Mascot Concentrator;  he joined the Knoxville Sentinel (predecessor to the Knoxville News-Sentinel) in 1917. In 1920 he became assistant manager of the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce and later became its manager. As a charter member of the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association (founded in 1923), he developed a keen interest in conservation and felt that Knoxville and the surrounding area, including the business community, could only benefit from the establishment of a national park.

By 1922 he was a scoutmaster and during that summer accompanied his troop on a two-week summer program at Camp LeConte in the Wonderland Park of Elkmont. During those two weeks he took three hikes, the first along the bank of Laurel Branch to Laurel Falls which at the time was not even a beaten path and certainly not a trail. On his second hike in the Smokies he experienced his first close-up of Mt. LeConte from the crest of Sugarland Mountain.

The third hike was an ordeal, but left him no less enthusiastic for the mountains. Campbell and his companion, Bob Bruner, caught the logging train that left Elkmont about daylight each day. The track bed was so curvy and steep that a Shea engine with vertical drive shafts was necessary to negotiate the sharp curves. The terrain eventually became so steep that even frequent switchbacks would not permit use of the engine and flat cars from that level and they were pulled up the mountain by a steel cable powered by a gasoline engine to a place near the pinnacle. There the two left the rail car and hiked the remainder of the way, possibly a mile, to the pinnacle near the state line and walked another mile along the crest before returning to meet the afternoon run of the primitive cable car. They never knew exactly where they had hiked but thought it was between Clingman’s Dome and Cold Springs Knob. Lesser men would have been intimidated by this rugged day trip--not these.

At this time in his life he was very busy with his work at the Chamber of Commerce and had begun his family. As a result he was unable to visit the mountains as often as he would have liked. However a life-changing event occurred. Marshall Wilson, Boys’ Work Secretary of the Knoxville YMCA, took a group of boys on a hike to Mr. LeConte. They enjoyed it so much that before long George F. Barber, Physical Director of the Y, invited a group of men to accompany him on a hike to LeConte. His brother, Charles I. (Charlie) Barber, prominent Knoxville architect, asked Campbell, then assistant manager of the Chamber, to join the group. Campbell answered, "I’m too busy." Barber replied, "You tell me that you are too busy to climb one of the grandest mountains of the east. If, instead, I had asked you to go with me to Yellowstone you would not be ‘too busy’ but you’d jump at the opportunity. Because this is something virtually in our back yard, you tell me you are too busy. Here you are at the Chamber of Commerce, supposedly in a position to tell people what we have around here, and you don’t know a darned thing about it!"

He acquiesced to this powerful challenge and accompanied the group on his first hike to Mt. LeConte one glorious October day in 1924. Years later he recalled the thrilling sights from its two main observation points. From Cliff Top one sees the dramatic Chimney Tops in one direction and Clingman’s Dome in another and from Myrtle Point the deep gorges of Greenbrier in one direction and Huggins Hell and the Alum Cave Bluff area in the other. These spectacular views have earned Mt. LeConte the title "The Grandstand of the Great Smokies." When reading his first person account of that October day in 1924 one can conclude that Carlos Campbell gained enthusiasm and a lifetime appreciation of our Eastern Tennessee and Western Carolina mountains. One senses that it marked the genesis of his intensified preservation efforts so important to maintaining the Smokies for future generations (4).

Campbell recounts in his book how he saw to it that thereafter every important visitor to the area, particularly anyone who could give publicity to the park movement, was taken to the mountains. If they agreed, they were accompanied on a hike to the Smokies. When Dr. E.L. Palmer, a professor at Cornell University and associate editor of Nature Magazine, was scheduled to speak at the East Tennessee Education Association in 1927, Mr. Campbell asked Dr. L.R. Hesler of the University of Tennessee Botany Department and Brockway Crouch, local florist and nature lover, to accompany them on a hike to Mt. LeConte. On another beautiful October day, they left Knoxville very early, departed the trailhead a few hours later and had hiked to Cliff Top by about noon where they ate their lunch.

Of course Dr. Palmer was impressed, as anyone who has seen the panoramic view from Cliff Top will affirm. When the trip was over it was suggested that the readers of Nature Magazine would enjoy reading Dr. Palmer’s report of the trip. He quickly agreed. Carlos Campbell volunteered to furnish the photographs for the story and another of his major hobbies was born. Mr. Campbell sent 12 photographs and the June 1928 issue of Nature contained the article and nine photographs, although the editor had requested only six. Throughout the years, not only Nature, but also National Geographic, published Campbell’s inspiring nature photographs. Eventually Mr. Campbell assembled a huge collection of color slides of the Great Smokies and many church groups, civic clubs, fraternal organizations and garden clubs enjoyed his enthusiastic lectures.

Eventually, his interest in the park and the influence of many of his hiking companions enhanced his long-standing appreciation of wildflowers and in 1962 he was co-author of Great Smoky Mountains Wildflowers with William F. Hutson, Hershal L. Macon and A.J. Sharp. The authors elected to accept no royalties to keep the cost reasonable so that more people could enjoy it. The book is now in its expanded and revised Fifth Edition and is a must for anyone interested in wildflowers. Thousands of copies have been sold over the forty years since it was published (5).

Mr. Campbell and his wife, Ida Watson Campbell, moved to Gibbs Drive in 1922. Their children were Jean (Mrs. Herbert C.) Harvey, Jr. (CHS 1936), Carlos Clinton Campbell, Jr. (CHS 1938, UT 1942) and James Marshall Campbell (CHS 1946, UT 1951). Carlos C. Campbell, Sr. was employed by the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce from 1920 to 1928, then with the Provident Mutual Life Insurance Company until his death almost 40 years later. He was a founding member of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Club, helped organize the Knoxville Science Club, was an early vice president of the East Tennessee Heart Association, a past president of the Knoxville Civic Music Association and a member of the Knoxville Camera Club. He was a member of the Central Baptist Church of Fountain City (6).

Fortunately Carlos Campbell’s contributions to the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and appreciation of its scenic beauty, including its wildflowers, were recognized and rewarded in his lifetime and thereafter. He was honored in many ways including:

Carlos Campbell passed away on August 19, 1978 at age 86. He and his wife of 61 years are buried in Lynnhurst Cemetery. Edward J. Meeman, editor of the Knoxville News-Sentinel, another vigorous supporter of the national park movement, wrote in his autobiography, "Carlos C. Campbell ... became the best informed man on the Great Smoky Mountains, the most understanding, courageous and persistent friend the park project, and later the park itself, ever had (11)." He was a Fountain Citian who made a vast difference in the lives of his fellow citizens and enabled many from other states and around the world to have the opportunity to appreciate East Tennessee’s natural wonders.

d-campb2.doc (8/8/02, 10/21/02, 8/22/03)


1.  Rebecca C. Arrants, Editor’s Note, Memories of Old Smoky (A collection of stories and experiences from the early years of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and several pre-park years) by Carlos C. Campbell, Publishers’ Graphics L.L.C., Nashville, 1999. (Over his lifetime Mr. Campbell would hike more than 4,000 miles in the Smokies, many of them logged before there were trails). (p. vi).

2.  Carlos C. Campbell, Birth of a National Park in the Great Smoky Mountains, Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, First printing 1960, Fourth printing 1984.

3.  "Carlos C. Campbell, Ardent, Devoted Friend of Great Smoky Mountains Park, Dies at 86," The Knoxville News-Sentinel, August 20, 1978; Personal conversation with James M. Campbell, April 17, 2002.

4.  ibid. (Campbell, 1999), pages 15-17. The list of those who were in this group in October 1924 is a veritable Who’s Who of influential Knoxvillians: Charles I. Barber, George F Barber, Guy L. Barber, Carlos C. Campbell, A.L. Chavannes, Jim Eslinger, W. Baxter Gass, Miss Bessie Geagley, Charles Kane, Charles Lester, W.H. McCroskey, T.S. McKinney, Neal B. Spahr, Douglas Smith, Miss Louise Smith, James E. Thompson, Hugh M. White, Frank E. Wilson and Marshall A. Wilson.

5.  Carlos C. Campbell, William F. Hutson, Hershal L. Macon and Aaron J. Sharp, Great Smoky Mountains Wildflowers, Knoxville, The University of Tennessee Press, 1962; Carlos C. Campbell, William F. Hutson and Aaron J. Sharp, Great Smoky Mountains Wildflowers, The University of Tennessee Press, Third Edition, 1970; Carlos C. Campbell, Aaron J. Sharp and Robert W. Hutson, Great Smoky Mountains Wildflowers, Northbrook, Windy Pines Publishing, Revised and Expanded Fifth Edition, 1995.

6.  op. cit., (Knoxville News-Sentinel, August 20, 1978); In personal conversation James M. Campbell recalled that the house on Gibbs Road, typical of the bungalow-style architecture seen there, was built in 1910 and that M. B. Banks, University of Tennessee football coach preceding Robert R. Neyland and later coach at Knoxville Central High School, was the previous occupant of the house.

7.  Mr. Campbell was the tenth person to receive this award. Among the other awardees are Laurance Rockefeller, Ladybird Johnson and Stuart Udall.

8.  This is the highest award given by the National Park Service to civilians and Mr. Campbell was only the twenty-first recipient.

9.  The Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association established this Fellowship honoring Mr. Campbell’s considerable efforts in establishing the National Park. Over $130,000 in fellowship grants have been made to date.

10.  Carson Brewer, "Smokies Overlook Named for Park Friend Carlos C. Campbell," Knoxville News-Sentinel, October 11, 1981. This recognition honored his long and diligent service to the Park. The overlook is located approximately two miles south of Sugarlands Visitor Center and offers a magnificent view of the valley of the West Prong of Little Pigeon River and the western slopes of Mt. LeConte to Bullhead and Balsam Point.

11.  Edward J. Meeman, The Editorial We (A Posthumous Autobiography), Memphis State University Press, 1976.

(One wishes he could interview all the Fountain City authors to determine what motivated them to reach others through the printed word and how they developed their skill. The usual advice to young people includes these suggestions: a). Read a lot, b). Keep a dairy, even if you do not make daily entries, and mainly c). Write, write, write.)

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