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Citizens speak on behalf of former coach

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Community continues support of Charles Campbell, who was not renewed as Grayson County’s assistant varsity baseball coach

By Shaina Stockton

INDEPENDENCE – More citizens attended the Grayson County School Board’s Aug. 14 meeting in a continuing expression of support of former coach Charles Campbell.

Campbell, a long-time eighth grade head baseball coach, and a full-time assistant with the varsity team for the first time this past spring, was not renewed as the assistant varsity baseball coach earlier this year. During the school board’s June meeting, Campbell was relieved of his duties with the varsity with a 4-1 vote from the board.

For many years, Campbell assisted, volunteered or helped out in some manner with virtually every sport offered in Grayson. By conservative estimates, Campbell’s eighth-grade teams won more than 250 games in his 17 years as coach. Campbell was also named the teacher of the year for Independence Middle School this past school year.

During the Aug. 14 meeting, six citizens signed up to speak during public comment time - five of whom expressed their support for Campbell during their allotted time at the podium.

Dirk Compton, who lives in Pulaski County, retired from the Virginia State Police in 2016. He shared that he and his family were no strangers to moving to new places, but of all of the coaches his sons have had over the years, Compton said he couldn’t think of a better one than Campbell.

“Coach Campbell is all business when he is on the field. He calls you out if you’re not paying attention; and he makes sure that you’re there doing what you need to be doing,” Compton said. “He is a well-grounded person, and he has a lot of knowledge about baseball. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather have coaching my kids.”

Tim Thompson of Bland County shared one of his favorite memories of Campbell and his late father with the board.

“My dad was sitting in his lawn chair, and he caught [a fly ball] with one hand,” he said. Coach Campbell responded by holding his hands up in the proper catching pose, and playfully teasing, “Thumb to thumb, Mr. Thompson!”

“My father loved baseball, and he loved Coach Campbell,” Thompson said. “When we left Grayson, my son played for a lot of teams. He has been taught by a lot of coaches, but Coach Campbell was the best coach we ever had.

“One thing I regret about leaving here, is that my son missed out,” he continued. “Coach Campbell knows baseball, knows how to practice and teach kids. His heart was always good and always kind. I don’t know the details of what happened here, or the driving force; but I know in losing him, you lost one of the best coaches. You don’t know how blessed you were to have him as a coach.”

Wayne Coleman shared that his son died in 2004, two weeks after he’d played his seventh grade season with Campbell. “My son’s grades went up… and you could see a change with him that started out there on the ball field,” he said.

A scholarship in his son’s name was established, and Coleman said Campbell was the one who gave away the money for 12 years. “He always did it in respect and honor of me, my ex wife and my daughter. He always wanted to make sure he said what we thought he should say,” said Coleman.

Continuing, Coleman told the board, “I know a lot of this is politics, and it’s wrong. You can do whatever you want to in this situation, but you will see these people come to every meeting, and you will all be up for election some time [in the future]. I’m sorry you all made this decision, and I wish you’d go back and do the research. How do you let a coach of 20 years go with zero discipline on his record? That’s what we want answered.”

Annie Rutherford told the board that she still had questions about the issue, which hadn’t been answered.

“I don’t understand how the teacher of the year could be let go like this,” she said.

Rutherford also shared a letter of support for Campbell from Dr. Joshua Nelson of Baylor University Athletics in Texas, in which he wrote, “We need a coach like Mr. Campbell [in today’s society].”

“That is all the way from Texas,” Rutherford said. “Today, I am here [on behalf of my family] to ask you — what are we doing?”

Ty Cannaday, a former student of Campbell’s, shared a quote by Harriet Beecher Stowe, that he believed best described Campbell: “To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.”

Cannaday said that Campbell was always encouraging him, not just with sports, but also with academics. “I remember every time we received our report cards. and the smile on his face when I got all A; same as when I hit a home run,” he said. “Playing for Coach Campbell helped me to become a man; and the way he lived his life taught me that life is valuable,” he said.