Tragic killing of a 39-year-old grandfather

Published 12:22 pm Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Thirty-nine years, one month and 25 days after his birth on August 12, 1888, the life of George Washington Campbell ended tragically in a short span of 20 minutes around 7 p.m. on October 7, 1927.

His left jugular vein was severed by a knife stab, resulting in a massive loss of blood that could not be stemmed quickly enough to sustain his life, even though he died in the office of a good friend, Dr. Thomas E. Morrow.

With tears in his eyes, Dr. Morrow said, “I’m sorry, George, there’s nothing more that I can do for you.” He was losing not only a good fishing buddy, but a father of ten children, seven of whom were still living, and a grandfather of an almost eleven-month-old granddaughter.

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How could such a senseless act be ending the life of his friend, he thought.

George and a friend, Hughey Farmer, had been at a Harvest Time Fair in the Locust Hill community. After dropping off Hughey, George stopped by the home of a nephew, Broadus Campbell, who lived about one tenth of a mile from his own home.

While still sitting in his automobile, George called to his nephew and Charlie Benson, who lived in the household. Before they became engaged in full conversation, Robert Wolfe and Ernest Lewis drove up in a second vehicle.

Robert Wolfe walked over to George Campbell’s automobile, saying, “I’ve been looking for a good man all day.” “Well, you’ve got him,” said Campbell. They began punching at each other over the door of the vehicle, then Campbell jumped out, engaging Wolfe in a wrestling hold that brought both of them to the ground.

Lewis came up to them and told Campbell to get off his friend. When Campbell didn’t let loose of Wolfe, Lewis engaged him with a knife in his hand. During the ensuing entanglement, Campbell was struck in the neck, severing the left jugular vein.

Broadus Campbell and Charlie Benson quickly pulled George into his vehicle, attempting to stem the massive blood loss while driving him to Dr. Morrow’s office about a mile away.

They passed right by the driveway to George’s home, where his wife, Minnie, and three small children were at home, and to the home of his oldest son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Three older children were at Campobello High School that evening watching a movie on World War I.

Magistrate Croft Caldwell was alerted and Sheriff Carlos Rector was called. Ernest Lewis surrendered to the sheriff around 10 p.m. that evening, admitting that he wielded the knife that led to the death of Campbell, but that he acted in self-defense.

Robert Wolfe was arrested and brought to the county jail around 1 a.m. the following morning, charged as an accessory in the killing of Campbell.

A formal inquest was held the following Monday morning at Wood’s Mortuary in Greer by Coroner J.L. Parks with a Coroner’s Jury. Both Ernest Lewis and Robert Wolfe were formally charged with murder after the inquest and Solicitor J.G. Leatherwood consented to bond of $1,500 for each. Solicitor Leatherwood appeared for the state and J.D. Lanford and L.E. Wood were counsel for the defendants.

The tragic death of George Washington Campbell is a very familiar twice-told tale of the Dark Corner. It has always been a doubly tragic one for me.

He is the grandfather I never knew, and my sister, the granddaughter who was less than a year old when he was killed, has no conscious memory of him.