Len Newton called to tell me about the funeral for Connie Campbell, an active member of Witherspoon Presbyterian Church who died at age 84 on August 23. She typified the leaders of the black community, says Newton, lauding her career. He cites her obituary in Town Topics. She was a buyer at Claytons, a department store on Palmer Square, at a time when it was difficult for African Americans to get anything but a government job.
Newton, who is white, has long been a champion of interacial communities. He was among those who founded the group of homes on Dempsey Avenue, built to be an interracial and affordable community, and he joined Witherspoon Presbyterian Church which, in 1952, was mostly black. “When I came from Philadelphia to work at Opinion Research, I went at least once to every church in town. The choir director at Witherspoon recruited me because they needed a tenor.”
Fewer and fewer people remember how it was in Princeton in the ’50s, Newton says. In the late 1930s, AFrican Americans were pushed out of what is now Palmer Square to make room for the town center. Schools were segregated until 1948.
“The African-American community was invisible to the white community at that time. But people knew each other. If went to a party on the West Side, I would find Connie and her husband, Floyd, serving the food.”
Newton celebrates all she did, including being an ordained deacon and elder of Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church; member of the original Verse Speaking Choir; board member at Princeton Nursery School, Princeton Arts Council, and Princeton Senior Resource Center, and serving as a volunteer at Princeton Hospital.
The funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church, 124 Witherspoon Street, Princeton. Calling hours will be from 1 p.m. until time of service at the church. Interment will be held at the Princeton Cemetery.
Calling hours will be from 6-8 p.m., Friday, August 30, 2013, at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church. Organizational service will be conducted at 7:30 p.m. at the church.