Husband, accused in death, attends funeral of wife Speakers at funeral urge prayers for William Campbell

November 11, 1995|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Two days after having been charged with murder in his wife's death, 82-year-old William Campbell sat in the front row at the funeral service yesterday as more than 300 friends and political dignitaries recalled his wife as a beloved civil rights activist who fought for Baltimore's future.

Marguerite J. Campbell, 79, died Tuesday in her Southwest Baltimore home after the catheter that attached her neck to a kidney dialysis machine was cut.

Many of those who spoke yesterday at St. Joseph's Passionist Monastery Church -- among them former Gov. William Donald Schaefer and four City Council members -- told of Mrs. Campbell's stalwart efforts as a Baltimore community activist.

"The high and the mighty have come here to say, 'Goodbye, Marguerite,' " said a choked-up Mr. Schaefer, who remembered Mrs. Campbell as "a fighter for the poor, the elderly, the schools and the rec centers."

Others spoke of Mr. and Mrs. Campbell's devotion to one another.

"I have admired William for years for his devotion to her," said longtime friend and former City Council member Victorine Q. Adams, who urged everyone to pray for Mr. Campbell.

Police said yesterday that Mr. Campbell -- Mrs. Campbell's husband for 50 years -- apparently used a pair of scissors to cut the tube and cause fatal blood loss.

While Mrs. Campbell had chronic health problems, as does her husband, police said they do not believe her death was a mercy killing.

A pair of scissors with blood on it was found in the basement of the house, and Mr. Campbell "gave inconsistent statements" in an interview in which he vehemently maintained his innocence, investigators said.

Mr. Campbell is free on his own recognizance, which is exceptionally rare when someone is charged with first-degree murder. He received warm support from many friends at the church yesterday. Even a city police officer in uniform was in attendance to pay his respects.

City Council President-elect Lawrence A. Bell III, who told the mourners stories of Mrs. Campbell's zeal in fighting for school, housing and recreation programs in Southwest Baltimore, said later that the charges have caused extra distress to the family.

"I know from talking to the family that [Mrs. Campbell] was in quite a bit of pain. She's been very ill for a while," he said.

Mrs. Campbell had part of her left leg amputated and spent more and more time in bed because of her illnesses.

"I have sympathy for the entire family Mr. Campbell is a wonderful man," Mr. Bell said. "I would hope that the authorities would proceed with a sense of compassion and understanding for that whole situation. I believe all of her family loved her."

Police investigators said Mrs. Campbell died in her bed in a second-floor room of the couple's home on South Abington Avenue. Mr. Campbell and other family members declined to discuss the charges.

In the eulogy, the Rev. Peggy E. Wall drew cheers and applause when she concluded by saying, "Goodbye, Daisy, we're going to take care of Mr. Campbell."

Friends called Mrs. Campbell "Daisy Bates" after the Little Rock, Ark. civil rights activist.

Ms. Wall also said that if Mrs. Campbell could have spoken yesterday, she would have urged people "to pray that my husband and my family will survive these sad and evil times."

Tom Saunders, who was Mrs. Campbell's campaign manager when she ran for City Council in 1983, said he didn't believe Mr. Campbell was capable of hurting anyone for any reason.

He recalled how Mr. Campbell "got down on his knees and scraped up every bit of grease" at Mrs. Campbell's proposed campaign headquarters. "He's a very good and dedicated man. He loved Mrs. Campbell," said Mr. Saunders, now campaign manager to City Councilman Melvin L. Stukes.

Mr. Stukes spoke at the funeral yesterday, as did fellow council member Agnes B. Welch.

Council President Mary Pat Clarke attended and recalled Mrs. Campbell's flashy clothes -- white hats and gloves -- that became a trademark during her neighborhood crusades.

"She took pride in being an elegant woman," Mrs. Clarke said. "The harder the issue, the brighter the clothes she wore."

Through an aide, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke presented Mrs. Campbell's family yesterday with a citation for her contributions "to the civic welfare of the city."

Decades ago, as a Social Security Administration employee in Woodlawn, Mrs. Campbell led a successful fight to provide better job opportunities for blacks. She served as aide and community liaison to former Mayors Thomas J. D'Alesandro III and Mr. Schaefer and often was an outspoken advocate for the poor.

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