News 12′s Anchor Tom Campbell died on Wednesday, May 2, 2012.
Tom had been battling cancer for more than a year and retired from News 12 in December 2011.
He had a 44-year career in journalism and started at News 12 in December 1995.
Prior to joining News 12, Tom had experience working as an anchor/reporter in several cities, including WTXL in Tallahassee, Fla., WCMH in Columbus, Ohio; KBMT in Beaumont, Texas; KSBY in San Luis Obispo, Calif.; KTRK in Houston, Texas; and WTVN in Columbus, Ohio.
Tom’s first big story was the collapse of the Silver Bridge over the Ohio River in 1967 that killed 46 people. The bridge collapse is linked in people’s minds to the 13 months of Mothman sightings that directly proceeded the tragedy. The Silver Bridge fell almost exactly at the same time that President Lyndon Baines Johnson turned on the Christmas Tree lights on December 15, 1967, in front of the White House, on the Ellipse.
Pam Lemaster of Warrenville, S.C., has been watching News 12 for more than a decade, and her favorite TV personality was always Tom.
“What I liked about Tom was his candor, his sense of humor. I do feel like I was part of his family because I watched him every day on television,” she said.
Pam says it wasn’t until Tom died Wednesday, May 2, and she heard about his 44-year career that she realized they had a few big things in common.
“It said one of Tom’s first big stories was covered in Ohio in 1967,” she said.
As noted, in December of 1967, Tom covered the Silver Bridge collapse, which killed 46 people almost instantly.
“My family happened to be traveling across that bridge,” Pam said. “And we were the last ones across it before it collapsed. I saw that bridge collapse out of the back window of my family’s car. I heard a rumble, saw a ripple. And then … it was gone.”
Pam remembers her family being pulled over on the side of the road; they were immediately surrounded by police officers and news reporters. She was 7 years old at the time.
“I’m very, very sure that Tom is possibly one of the ones who interviewed my father and my mother,” she said.
She says they can’t know for sure, but she distinctly remembers her family being glued to news programming in the following weeks.
To this day, images of the bridge collapse are burned into her memory. Pam eventually moved to Aiken County, settling in Graniteville until 2005.
In January of that year, Pam had just moved from Graniteville to Warrenville three days before a famous train crash locally. Her first concern was all of her family and friends who still lived there.
“It was so comforting to turn on the news and to look and see Tom’s face behind that desk. I made a comment to a couple of my friends — that man’s been on there for like 10 hours. How can he do that? And I found out recently that’s just the type of person he was. He started a story and didn’t quit until it was over with.”
Pam points out the two major crises in her life, Tom has been the newscaster guiding her through.
“I’m very sad that he’s gone,” she sighed. “I’m gonna miss seeing him on the news. But I’m glad that he’s no longer suffering. I look forward to remembering his legacy for years to come,” she said.
In 1968, Tom covered his first of many presidential campaigns, interviewing Richard Nixon and Robert Kennedy. Kennedy’s interview would be one of his last before his assassination. The following year Tom reported reaction to Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon from the astronaut’s hometown.
In his years of reporting, Tom traveled all over the United States and to foreign countries. In the 80s, Tom reported on the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and filed reports from Ellis Island. Reporting has also taken Tom to China for three weeks and to Haiti twice. When an Amtrak passenger train derailed in Mobile, Ala., killing 47 people, Tom filed live reports from the scene.
Tom was a native of Delaware, Ohio, and attended Ohio Wesleyan and Ohio State Universities.
Tom was buried in Augusta with full military honors.