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December 27, 2013

City loses leader, mentor

THOMASVILLE — Community leaders, friends and former coworkers gathered to tell about their mentor and friend, Cliff Campbell, who died on Thursday at the age of 85.

Tom Callaway, Richard Mooney, Richard Vann and Jackie Demsher attest to his love of banking, helping people and mentoring future generations.

“He was a great banker and leader in the community,” Callaway said. “When Cliff Campbell came to Thomasville, he completely turned banking around. He made it aggressive and modern. He knew how to go after businesses.

“He was an early mentor of mine and many others right after school. He loved Thomasville.”

Campbell moved to Thomasville when he was transferred from Albany to become the president of the newly acquired Citizens & Southern (C&S) Bank of Thomas County in 1968. He held the position until his retirement in 1989.

During his time as bank president, he became a mentor to many of Thomasville’s current business and community leaders.

In the early 1970s, Callaway, investment advisor and partner at Allen, Mooney & Barnes, had recently graduating college from the University of Georgia. It was then that Campbell offered him his first job at the bank where they worked together until Campbell retired.

Mooney, of Allen, Mooney & Barnes, remembered Campbell bringing many of new graduates into the community during the 1970s. He said Campbell was responsible for recruiting many of Thomasville’s leaders, which he made to be community and church minded.

Mooney said, “Cliff had a vision many years ago to make plans and get people involved to make Thomasville as it is today. He made it a vitalized ‘Main Street’ community by being a civic and community leader. He helped people like me get started.

“He’ll always be Mr. C&S.”

Mooney said there are not many people like Campbell left.

“Only a few good people walk through your life and he was one of them,” he said.

Forty-two years ago,Vann, now Thomasville National Bank Senior vice president, remembered Campbell giving him his first job out of college at C&S Bank of Thomas County.

“He taught me how to deal with people and about banking,” Vann said. “He is going to be truly missed. Mr. Campbell made so many contributions to this community while teaching others.

“He was always very kind and patient.”

Three months ago, Vann introduced Campbell to some of his friends. He doted on his mentor and told them about his first job with him. Vann remembered seeing Campbell’s misty eyes as he told the story to his friends.

Vann added, “I could just go on and on about Cliff Campbell...”

Demsher knew Campbell, Thomasville’s Man of the Year in 1973, for many years prior to being hired as his secretary at the bank. She worked for him for 25 years.

“Everything we ever did was a fond memory— whether it was just being at work or living in the same neighborhood. They are all fond memories,” Demsher said.

Demsher also talked about him being a great boss who was a considerate and concerned employer.

She joked, “I probably loved him just a little less than Frances (Campbell’s wife) did.”

After Campbell retired, he remained active. He served as president of many organizations, including the Thomasville-Thomas County Chamber of Commerce, Thomasville YMCA and Thomasville Rotary Club.

Former Chamber President Don Sims said Campbell exemplified a Southern gentleman who was always there for his family and community.

He said, “Cliff Campbell was a great business leader. He is a great example for anyone wanting to be a great leader in the community.”

City Councilman Roy Campbell, no relation to Cliff Campbell, has fond memories of Cliff Campbell. He knew him since 1977 when he went to the bank to receive a loan for his car dealership. Roy Campbell said people would confuse him with the banker all the time because they were about the same height and had the same last name.

“People used to come up to and ask him about Impalas, the prices of certain cars and how the dealership was going. It also happened to me, too. People would ask me about the bank. Cliff and I would laugh about it. It happened to us for years,”Roy Campbell said.

Roy Campbell remembered one incident when he was at a Christmas party. He had just dropped his wife off at the door and he was going to park the car. It was then that he ran into a man who insisted Roy Campbell was Cliff Campbell the banker.

After arguing with the man that he was really Roy Campbell the car dealer and not Cliff Campbell the banker, he gave up because there was no convincing the man.

Campbell added, “Cliff Campbell was a fine gentleman and fine member of this community.”

For 38 years, Cliff Campbell served on boards of trustees of the Archbold healthcare system, including terms as chairman of Archbold Memorial Hospital and Archbold Medical Center boards.

“Cliff Campbell gave nearly 40 years of support and service to the Archbold organization, joining the board of trustees in 1975 and serving in many leadership roles over the years,” said Perry Mustian, Archbold Medical Center president. “As co-founder of the Archbold Classic golf tournament, he positively impacted many, many lives throughout the entire region by raising funds for healthcare career scholarships. We at Archbold — and our patients — have been the beneficiaries to the unselfish community service and community spirit of Cliff Campbell, and we have lost a great friend.”

Joe Harvard and Bob Dixon recalled what it was like knowing Cliff Campbell as a friend within civic clubs and church.

Harvard met him in 1970 when he moved to Thomasville. They served on the C&S board together. They also played golf together and were members of ROMEOS, which Harvard said stood for “Retired Old Men Eating Out.” He joked about how long it took them all to order when eating at a restaurant.

He said, “He was a wonderful person and very well-liked.”

Bob Dixon, who knew Cliff Campbell through First United Methodist Church, summed up his opinion of the beloved man with a quote from Ralph Sockman: “Nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing is so gentle as true strength.”

Dixon continued, “He was a strong leader in the community with strong faith. He was gentle, but a strong friend. In his quiet gentleness, I never knew a stronger person.”



Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.

 

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