Founders Week | Campbell unveils statue of Founding President J.A. Campbell

BUIES CREEK — Campbell University capped off its inaugural Founders Week Friday afternoon with the unveiling of a 7-foot, 500-pound bronze statue of James Archibald “J.A.” Campbell, who founded the school in 1887 and served as its president until his death in 1934.

The 15-minute ceremony drew nearly 500 students, faculty, staff, and alumni, as well as at least a dozen members of the Campbell family. Tom Campbell, the great-grandson of J.A. Campbell, spoke on behalf of the family during the ceremony.

“Thank you for honoring our family,” said Tom Campbell, executive producer and moderator of NC Spin. “More than that, you honor also those who have taught here and who have given their time and talents and resources to make this a great university. . . .

“As Scripture says, ‘Well done, good and faithful servants.’”

Jon Hair, of Concord, North Carolina, sculptured the statue, which was welded together by 25 individual bronze pieces. It was cast in San Diego, California, before being flown to Indianapolis and then to Raleigh, where it was loaded on a truck and driven to Buies Creek, arriving at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

The finished product stands in front of Kivett Hall, the oldest building on main campus, and at the edge of the Academic Circle.

There is no more appropriate location for the statue, said current Campbell University President Jerry Wallace. “Here [J.A. Campbell] is looking out over a campus he walked over for nearly 50 years, that he loved into existence, and that he sacrificed his all for.”

The statue will “be a legacy that will tell the story of Campbell University,” Wallace added. “Students now, visitors now and other people will come and will ponder who this man is, and we would be wrong if we are ever unable to tell who he is, what he did, and how he lived. May it ever be so. . . .

“God bless the wonderful memory and legacy of James Archibald Campbell.”

J.A. Campbell, both a preacher and a teacher, founded Buies Creek Academy in 1887 at a time when there had not been a school operating in the area for at least three years. When he opened BCA, people questioned whether it could survive given its location. Then, in December 1900, a fire destroyed nearly the entire academy. With the help of the Harnett County community, particularly the self-taught contractor Z.T. Kivett, J.A. Campbell re-opened BCA within 20 days of the fire.

“There is absolutely no reason in this world why [Campbell University] should be here today because of where this school is located and the struggles it had to go through,” Tom Campbell said. “As Winston Pearce said, ‘A Big Miracle in Little Buies Creek.’ I salute everybody involved in this institution.”

After operating as a boarding school for nearly 40 years, BCA evolved to become Campbell Junior College (1926), Campbell College (1961), and Campbell University (1979). Today, the university is home to schools of law, divinity, business, education, pharmacy, and osteopathic medicine, making it one of only three private universities in North Carolina to achieve the highest level of accreditation. This past fall, the Board of Trustees also approved opening a school of engineering in 2016.

“I have no reservation that Jim Arch [and his children] would swell with pride if they could look at campus today and see all the miraculous things — the incredible law school, pharmacy school, business school, and [proposed] engineering school,” Tom Campbell said. “It truly is a miracle.” 

Time-lapse video: Statue installation 
Video by Bennett Scarborough