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James Dirtha Campbell was born December 9, 1929, the second child born to the marriage between Mr. Floyd D. Campbell and Luvenia Norment. As a young man his mother married Ed McDaniels who raised him as his son, who James adopted as a loving father.
His birth name was J.D. Dirtha Campbell, recorded by a Midwife with no Birth Certificate. He was born in the Jim Crow era of Segregation that began in Arkansas in 1891 after slavery ended 1865. He was not allowed to go to school in Hampton Arkansas as a "Color Boy". To go to school, he and his cousin (Hanley Norment; deceased Past President NAACP Maryland ), went away to a boarding school together at Robert R. Monton Elementary and High School. This was an all colored boarding school (Kindergarten - 12th grade), in Marianna Arkansas, named after the second President of Tuskegee Institute in. This was 1935. He was 6 years of age. This was not privileged. While attending Robert R. Monton the Headmaster changed his name to James D. Campbell stating “JD” was not a proper and dignified name for a black man. This would be his name for the rest of his life.
In 1944 he attended AM&N Pine Bluff - Historically Black University (now known as Arkansas University). Having to work and earn money for room, board, tuition, and books he struggled working 22 hours per week while attending full class courses. Undaunted by the time, and his circumstances he succeeded, and started writing papers for the “rich kids” and surpassed his classmates from Robert R Moton that had received scholarships. He was a member of the 4-H club, Optimist Club, and the Debate Team. By his Senior year he made the President’s Honor Roll, having made the Dean’s list his sophomore and junior years which was a requirement. He was invited to pledge Alpha Phi Alpha, the most prestigious black fraternity at that time. “First of All, Servants of All, We Shall Transcend All”, was his creed. He was successful in graduating at the top of his class with a degree in Agriculture, and a minor in science and mathematics.
James met his wife Morlene Alicia Platt of McGhee, Arkansas when he was an associate professor teaching calculus and agriculture studies at AM&N Pine Bluff College. In May of 1958 they were married, moving to Kansas. To this union there were 2 sons, the late James T. Campbell, Dirtha T. Campbell and one daughter Sharon Patrice Cox-Jones-Campbell.
Arriving in Kansas he couldn’t find work as a college professor. He was frustrated however he carried himself in a dignified manner having learned Robert’s Codes Of Conduct at Robert R. Moton Boarding Preparatory School. Eventually he was hired as a cook for Ken Bakers Restaurant. With his work hard work ethic and hours he put in on the job, he worked his way up from cook to Head Chef. After leaving Ken Bakers Restaurant (for family reasons), he worked multiple jobs at Kroger’s Groceries, JC Pennys in KCK, and the Food Mart on Prospect KCMO to make ends meet. At JC Penny’s again he was successful, with dedication, the ability to learn fast, and product knowledge earning his way to the top salesman in the hardware for the district.
In 1972 at the age of 43 he was hired by Metro Amalgamated Transit Union, Local #1287. In the 33 years of his employment, he drove every route; which could be dangerous, especially the 5pm - 1am routes; which he chose because of the higher wages earned. He had many dangerous run ins before his retirement in 2007. He was 76.
In his retirement he joined Zion Travelers Missionary Baptist Church, where he was a dedicated member and the handyman, jack of all trades until he became ill. There was no time too early or too late for any job to be completed for his Zion family. James transcended into eternity on December 24, 2023.
He is preceded by his mom Luvenia Norment-Campbell-McDaniels and father Edward McDaniels, his beloved wife, Morlene Alicia Campbell, (Lovie), his son James T. Campbell and his sister Josephine Luella Maudeva Campbell Brown.
James, JD, brother Campbell leaves to cherish his loving memory, his two children Dirtha T. Campbell, Sharon Patrice Cox-Jones-Campbell, daughter in law Angela M. Pitts, son in law Dave Jones; who was his running buddy, and Gary E. Moore; who was like a son to him, special grandson Nicholas DeAngelo Terrence Cox; who were like Huey and Grandpa on the Boondocks (Love and Admonition, going both ways), grandson Antoine O’Neal Pitts, granddaughters Sparkle Jones, Aira’Marie Jones, Chelsea Jones, and a host of cousins, nieces, nephews, and family members.
A special thanks goes to the Zion family of brothers and sisters.