Bill Campbell, a veteran Chicago TV newsman who spent more than three decades with ABC 7 Chicago, including as editorial and community relations director and talk show host, has died at age 70.
Mr. Campbell, of north suburban Evanston, was for many years the public face of the station. He died Wednesday at Symphony Evanston Healthcare, where he had been recovering from a series of medical setbacks stemming from a 2017 stroke.
“He was passionate about Chicago. It was his heart. It was his life’s work. And he believed that people could transform their lives and the lives of others by being positive on purpose,” said his brother, Kevin Campbell.
“He inspired so many people, and inspired us as his family through his work.”
The multiple Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, who retired from ABC 7 in 2010, after 32 years, was best known as host of the public affairs show, “Chicagoing,” which aired every Sunday morning for 21 years.
Born on the South Side, Mr. Campbell’s young father was at the time working on a degree in chemistry from the University of Chicago; his mother, an artist. Raised in Bronzeville, then Roseland Heights, a community now called Chatham, Mr. Campbell graduated from Harlan High School before obtaining his degree in journalism from Carleton College in Minnesota.
Before joining ABC 7 in 1978, he had stints with the Model Cities Program, an urban aid initiative growing out of ’60s unrest; and worked for the office of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and the Chicago Urban League.
He began his ABC 7 career as director of editorials, writing and delivering the station’s on-air editorials covering wide-ranging social issues and current affairs, a position he would hold the next 10 years before leaving for a William Benton Fellowship in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Chicago.
“All of us at ABC 7 were saddened to learn of Bill’s passing,” ABC 7 President and General Manager John H. Idler said.
“His kindness and caring spirit are the biggest part of his enduring legacy. His contributions to our station are still felt today, and Bill’s indomitable spirit lives on in all who knew him.”
Returning to the station in 1989, Mr. Campbell was offered a new role hosting the weekly talk show, he recounted in an interview with The HistoryMakers, a site celebrating Black trailblazers. Mr. Campbell, who had launched an Evanston-based consulting, coaching and communications firm CampbellQuest Ltd., in 1997, focused on consulting after retiring.
“Bill was a longtime friend and mentor as well,” said Evanston friend Margaret Morris, whose office was near his for years. “He was a loving and generous human being. We shared many lunches and conversations, and he has been missed for several years.”
Campbell was a longtime member of the National Association of Black Journalists Chicago Chapter, where he was an active mentor to young journalists for many years. He was also a longtime member and youth mentor with Chessmen Club of the North Shore, Inc., one of Evanston’s oldest Black male community organizations serving Black youth.
“He would come to NABJ-Chicago meetings and immediately approach some young person in high school or college, sit down and talk with them,” said retired NBC 5 anchor Art Norman, board member emeritus of the Black journalists group.
“And when the meeting was over, our then-president Warner Saunders would be like, ‘Man, we gotta go.’ And he’d say, ‘I’m coming. I’m coming.’ But he’d still be talking to the young people. He just loved them. He was always available to them, even giving them his phone number. He was just sheer class, such a good brother to lean on. I’m going to miss him.”
In December 2017, Campbell suffered a massive stroke resulting in a lengthy hospitalization and rehab. When friends learned that much of his care was uncovered by insurance, they banded together to launch a Friends of Bill Campbell GoFundMe page.
“Bill is not only a beloved friend, but he is one of Chicago’s great hearts and minds, whose service has changed millions of lives in a positive way,” the group — with many well-known names on the Chicago media landscape — wrote in their appeal.
“Through his heartfelt work in broadcast and community service at ABC7, he has been the catalyst for positive advancement and change in business, education, healthcare, government, and other sectors throughout our society,” his friends continued.
“He brought about recognition and support for charitable causes such as the Greater Chicago Food Depository, which now feeds millions. Also, his avid support for mandatory child safety seats contributed to those seats becoming law, saving thousands of small children’s lives each year for the last two decades.”
Besides his brother, survivors include his wife, Angela Edwards-Campbell, a son, Will; and two sisters, Sheila Savannah and Dr. Judith Campbell.
Services are pending.