Agnes Knight Campbell


Agnes Knight Campbell


As a tribute to the women of Overton County, the Overton County Historical Society is planning a display that will honor several women who lived and served in this area. As I understand it, those women who will be honored came from various walks of life, but the selection won’t be limited to just those who accomplished great things with their lives such as becoming a doctor, but will also include a simple seamstress as well. I had an opportunity recently when I visited at the Overton County Historical Museum to go through some boxes of items that had been donated to the museum by two nieces of a very accomplished lady by the name of Agnes Knight Campbell. After looking through the many awards and certificates Mrs. Campbell received for her outstanding accomplishments, I found myself wishing I could have had a chance to speak with her personally and ask some questions that came to my mind about her life. Along with the certificates and awards, there were many newspaper clippings about her, but none of these were much help in answering the things I would really like to know about her, like what was it that most influenced her life in the direction that she went with it. Was it the fact that she came from a long line of very educated ancestors that played a large part in what she did with her life? I can only wonder about that since she isn’t with us anymore, but here is a little bit about her life I have put together.


Agnes Knight Campbell as a young girl.


Mrs. Campbell was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Allen Knight. She was born in the Boom community of Pickett County. She had one brother, Orbitt Lloyd, and one sister, Inez. A long line of educators ran in the Knight family, and included Moses Fiske, a great-great-great uncle of Agnes Knight Campbell. Moses Fiske left a teaching position at Dartmouth College to come to Tennessee’s Upper Cumberlands where he established the first female academy south of the Mason/Dixon line. Her great-great grandfather, Joseph Fisk Knight, came to Fiske Academy as a teacher upon his graduation from Harvard University. Mrs. Campbell’s father, George Allen Knight, was a teacher as well as a author of several books about their family and the early days in the Upper Cumberlands. Some of Mr. Knight’s books have been used in teaching Tennessee history in middle-Tennessee.

Mrs. Campbell graduated with a B.S. degree from Tennessee Tech in 1934. She furthered her education at Vanderbilt in Nashville, the University of Chicago, and the University of Tennessee, where she completed at M.S.S.W. degree in 1953.

Her work experience included teaching in many Overton County schools. The list of those schools includes Livingston Grammar School; Union Academy; and Hilham Academy. She served as principal at Timothy School during the years 1935-39.

During the years 1939-41, Mrs. Campbell served as county director of the Overton County Department of Public Welfare and the Fentress County Department of Public Welfare. She moved on to the position of regional director of the Tennessee Department of Public Welfare in Knoxville during 1942 through 1955. She became a social worker of Youth Service in Knoxville, and later the Executive Director of the Knoxville Travelers Aid Society in 1958.

Agnes Knight married John Franklin Campbell on June 20, 1942. He was born in Maiden, North Carolina, July 16, 1898. Mr. Campbell played semi-professional baseball in the early 20's. He was employed with the engineering department of Tennessee States Highways, and had served on special engineering assignments with the Atomic Energy Commission at Oak Ridge during World War II. Mr. Campbell passed away on January 5, 1974.

Agnes Knight Campbell’s name can be found many times in "Who’s Who of American Women." It is also listed in "Who’s Who in the South and Southwest," the "Dictionary of International Biography", and in the "National Social Directory." Many issues of each of these publications contain her name.

Included in the numerous items contained in those two boxes left by Mrs. Campbell’s nieces was something called a Personal Information Card prepared and presented by the International Biographical Centre of Cambridge, England. Mrs. Campbell’s photograph is shown on one side of the card, and information of her various accomplishments is shown on the page opposite her picture.

All this still leaves me wondering about what the real Agnes Knight Campbell was like. When Mrs. Campbell was the recipient an honor from the Governor John Sevier Memorial Association, the person presenting the honor to Mrs. Campbell said: "There is an old mountain saying that says ‘tall women stood tall and cast a long shadow.’" Mrs. Campbell was surely a woman who stood head and shoulders above most, and can certainly be considered one of Overton County’s women who did extremely well with her life.