Granbury Mayor Nin Hulett was working in his yard Monday when he received a call that John Calvin Campbell – known to many as J.C. – wanted to see him.
Hulett immediately rushed to Lake Granbury Medical Center. He knew in his heart that it would be his final visit with the man who had been his mentor and a longtime servant of the community.
Campbell, 88, died the next day.
A widely beloved and respected figure, Campbell was many things: a Korean War veteran; a gifted artist; a longtime volunteer firefighter; a former Granbury City Councilman; a family man who took pride in his grandchildren; and a devoted attendee of meetings of the City Council, Hood County Commissioners Court and Granbury School Board.
On Wednesday, Hulett was coming to grips with the realization that he would never again see Campbell on the front row at council meetings or receive encouraging phone calls from him late at night.
“It’ll be tough,” Hulett said. “We lost a great one. He has touched everybody around this community.”
Born in Dallas, Campbell’s family moved to Irving when he was 10. He graduated from Irving High School in 1950 and then joined the Navy, spending the next two years stationed primarily on the USS Frank E. Evans as a boiler tender, according to a biography of Campbell written for The Bridge Street History Center by Tom Hamilton.
After returning to Irving, Campbell worked for a phone company while attending night school at Dallas Art Institute. He eventually enrolled at North Texas College in Denton, now the University of North Texas, where he met “a good-lookin’ girl” named Sylvia Carmichael. Campbell recounted their meeting to the Hood County News in an interview last fall.
The couple married in 1958 at the Presbyterian Church in Granbury, Sylvia’s hometown. They had three sons: John, Jerry and Joel. The boys were each born two years apart starting in 1960, according to Hamilton’s biography.
During his career, Campbell worked as a graphic design illustrator for General Dynamics, Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV) and Lockheed Martin, retiring in 2001. Sylvia worked for the Granbury school district. She passed away in May 2019.
Campbell sketched historic buildings and homes in Hood County and compiled them into a pamphlet called “Scenes of Granbury and Hood County,” which was published in 1975. In 2016, he released an expanded version of his collection, called “Artwork of Historic Hood County, Texas.”
Campbell served on the Granbury City Council from 1971-1992. He also served on the Hood County Hospital District board and was a Masonic Lodge member for almost 60 years. In 2013, he received the chamber’s Howard Clemmons Distinguished Service Award.
The longtime Hood County resident assisted in the formation of the USS Frank E. Evans Association, Inc. and served as its president for 25 years. He was proclaimed an Ambassador for Peace by the Korean government last year.
When news broke of Campbell’s death, the Granbury ISD paid homage to him on the school district’s Facebook page. The tribute noted that he had spearheaded essay contests for both Memorial Day and Veterans Day and was honored with the GISD Superfan Award in 2018.
“Campbell was an incredible friend to students and staff, and he was a regular fixture at school board meetings,” the post stated.
Hulett said that he intends to ask state Rep. Glenn Rogers, R-Palo Pinto, and state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, to recognize Campbell on the floor of the House and Senate.
Campbell recently told the Hood County News that his cancer had returned and that doctors wanted him to begin chemotherapy.
During his final days, Campbell reached out to Hulett and others to give them one more pep talk, praising them for making Granbury and Hood County a great place to live. Not everyone who had hoped to visit one last time with the man who was perhaps the community’s biggest cheerleader was able to do so. Hulett said that shortly after his own visit, Campbell became unresponsive.
“There were several council members that weren’t able to talk to him,” the mayor said, “because time ran out.”