The man greeting visitors Tuesday stands in stark contrast to the demanding, fierce figure he cut in the courtroom as district attorney for the Cherokee Judicial Circuit. Covering Bartow and Gordon counties since 1992, Campbell marked his retirement Tuesday night after 20 years as DA.
Campbell began his career in the mid-1970s after serving almost a year in Vietnam as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He earned the Bronze Star and the Commendation Medal for his service.
The grandfather of four first joined the Seventh Judicial Circuit’s Cherokee Judicial Circuit, serving there as the first paid assistant district attorney from 1976 to 1980. He was an attorney in Calhoun until 1992 when he was elected to his first term as district attorney.
By 2008 he had tallied more than 110 jury trials, prosecuted more than 55 homicide trials, five death penalty cases and advised more than 120 grand juries.
Campbell said Tuesday it was moving to greet those coming to wish him well in the next stage of his life.
“It’s very humbling,” he said. “It’s an honor to have been able to do this and all the fine people I’ve been associated with. It’s a real honor.”
In January, Rosemary Greene will step into the vacancy left by Campbell’s retirement.
“Joe hired me many years ago and I have known him since I was a little girl, so I have grown up with that name and that figure in my life,” Greene said. “He has done such a wonderful job for the people of Gordon and Bartow County, and that is going to be such a tough role to fill but I feel I have learned from him. I have had his guidance these past couple of months, so I’m ready to carry on and start my office.”
Calling Campbell “very fastidious” and “very aggressive” in the courtroom, she said his demeanor inside the office was one she aspires to.
“Both inside the office and outside … Joe is our father figure and our heart of our office,” Greene said. “Sometimes he comes across like a big bear but he’s not. He can be so kind, so loving during life’s events, you know, things that happen in families — births, deaths, everything. He has been there for all of us throughout the years. I hope to continue and model my ability to relate to the employees that way.”
Campbell’s secretary, Connie Bohannon, said his ability to relate to whomever he meets is what makes him outstanding as a supervisor and attorney.
“He can talk to you about law; he can talk to you about art. He can talk to you about family, history. He reads all the time, he goes to museums. He travels all over, he’s a veteran. He has a huge family. He can get on any level; that’s why he is so good with witnesses and victims.”
Campbell said he plans to enjoy retirement, although he will continue to work is some capacity after Jan. 1.
“I’m going to do what my wife tells me and going to try to get in and do a little mediation. [I] may try to help my son-in-law a little do some real estate work, things like that.”