FORMER RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY PUBLIC RELATIONS VP PASSES AWAY
RICHMOND, VA 3/25/06- Former Richmond International Raceway Vice President of Public Relations Robert "Kenneth" Campbell Sr., who helped promote racing for nearly 60 years in Richmond, passed away late last night. He was 83 and resided in Chesterfield County, Virginia at the time of his passing.
Known as "Kenneth" to his friends and co-workers, Mr. Campbell helped promote races in Richmond starting in 1948 when Nelson Royall built the facility that is now know as Southside Speedway. Fourteen years later, he joined former Richmond International Raceway owner Paul Sawyer as a partner to help promote races at the ½-mile dirt track known at the Virginia State Fairgrounds. That track, of course, was later reconfigured into a ¾-mile paved oval and today is known as Richmond International Raceway.
"Kenneth Campbell was a pioneer in the world of NASCAR and entertainment public relations and promotions," said Richmond International Raceway president Doug Fritz. "His unique ideas and dedication to the sport helped Richmond International Raceway grow and become one of the most popular and fan-friendly NASCAR facilities in the country. There is no question that part of our success today is due to the groundwork laid by Kenneth Campbell during his five decades working at the track."
Before retiring in 2001, Mr. Campbell was known for being a tireless and innovative promoter. Decades ago, he organized a group of fans, government officials and civic leaders from Richmond to take a train to Darlington to help them understand how big NASCAR was becoming in other cities throughout the south. The plan worked, as the fares were sold out and fans were left at the platform.
He also helped start the big business of sponsorships in NASCAR. Before decals on cars were commonplace, he once brokered a deal to put a logo from a Richmond car dealer on Richard Petty's car. Long before NASCAR was a mainstream sport, he helped bring ABC's "Wide World of Sports" to Richmond to tape a race segment.
Mr. Campbell also drove the NASCAR pace car at most major tracks throughout the country and he worked for CBS at NASCAR races at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. In addition, he promoted and traveled with many top entertainers outside of NASCAR including Lawrence Welk, Guy Lombardo, the Statler Brothers and Glenn Campbell. He also helped promote the Harlem Globetrotters and Roller Derby.
He was a 1941 graduate of Manchester High School and served his country as a member of the United States Marine Corp in World War II. Upon returning home from the war, he graduated from Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth Universtiy) with a B.S. degree.
He was a member of the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau and he served as president of the Chesterfield Kiwanis Club. For more than 20 years, both he and his wife were antique dealers.
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Lois Gronlund Campbell; daughter, Deborah "Dodie" Campbell Ortland; son, Robert Kenneth Campbell, Jr.; sister Wanda Campbell Brinkley and brother Garland Campbell. He was preceded in death by his parents John Harding Campbell and Era Atkins Campbell.
The family will hold a private burial. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made in his name to the Victory Junction Gang Camp at 4500 Adam's Way, Randleman, SC 27317.
Upon Mr. Campbell's retirement, the Richmond International Raceway media center was named after him. A memorial service will be held at the Kenneth Campbell Media Center located in the Richmond International Raceway infield on Friday, March 31 at 5:00 p.m.