“I know where all the bodies are buried because I’m the one who dug the holes.”
— Jack Campbell
The next time you see an older man sitting alone at your local watering hole, say hello and share a drink. He may be a long-lost friend waiting for ears to hear stories he hasn’t shared in years. You never know what stories a man has to tell, nor how much longer he has to tell them, but once you take the time, you’ll never forget.
For me, that man was Jack Campbell.
By a strange twist of fate, Jack and I became good friends over the last four years. On paper, it shouldn’t have worked, yet it did.
“I’m all you got!” he’d jokingly say on a regular basis.
“I know, that’s why I’m worried,” I’d respond with a chuckle.
Our friendship began as talk radio colleagues, thrown together to co-host an exploded and sinking ship of a show. Yet we managed to stay afloat – although some of our listeners may disagree! Throughout those many shows and many more epic dinners, Jack would relay stories from his life and political career, introducing me to friends, old and new.
Jack never forgot a face and very rarely a name. He had a mind like a steel trap and an immense feline curiosity to boot. Just as rarely did he go unrecognized by past colleagues and friends. Very few dinners together passed without at least one former political acquaintance, fraternity brother, or drinking buddy stopping by our table to reminisce.
Needless to say, Jack Campbell was quite unforgettable. As the song says, “Those kind of cars don’t pass you every day.”
When Jack suffered a stroke two years into our working relationship, he was no longer able to talk on the radio. Like many stroke victims, he went through the arduous process of re-learning how to speak. A man known for his wit and one-liners, Jack’s voice tragically never fully returned to form. Yet he did improve enough to carry on our conversations. Our dinners continued, too, along with the stories and uproarious laughter.
Wherever he went, Jack Campbell was holding court. Didn’t matter if his audience was young or old, rich or poor, black or white, stranger or friend, political friend or foe – Jack would always be armed with some old Montgomery story, transgressive quip, inside joke, or well-timed sound effect.
Indeed, Jack was the only man I’ve known who could make blue-haired Southern ladies laugh at blue humor. I guess all those old women knew what we all did – that every indelicate, indecent, insulting, bawdy, or biting remark he made hid a twinkle of mirth and an offer of good cheer.
Jack loved to laugh and inspire others to do the same. He loved a good joke, a good drink, and a good time. We would often randomly swap video clips from Mel Brooks flicks as well as stand-up comedy routines from Rodney Dangerfield and Norm Macdonald. He would get excited showing me old Carson-era “Tonight Show” appearances by the likes of Don Rickles and Joan Rivers while I would play the latest Tim Dillon rant for him. Comedy, more than politics, was our common language, and Jack had a remarkable sense of humor. Any man who would name his pet beagle “Alice” just so he could pretend to be Jackie Gleason in “The Honeymooners” – whenever that dog would act up, he’d say “to the moon Alice!” – should be in the sense of humor hall of fame.
Jack not only relished being “in on the joke,” he also loved being “in the know” or “inside the room” when it came to Alabama politics. He genuinely loved people and loved being on “the team” for the latest campaign. In politics, 98% of the game is who you know, not what you know, and Jack Campbell knew people and politics all too well – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Over these last four years, I would often hear him boast to politicians with one of his favorite one-liners, “I know where all the bodies are buried because I’m the one who dug the holes.”
Rest in peace, Jack. I will never forget you. Years from now, when I’m that older man sitting alone at the local watering hole, perhaps someone will say hello and stop to listen to some of those same lines we once shared.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].
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