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Bay area banking leader for 35 years, Gordon Campbell dies at 76

Gordon Campbell rose to the top of a number of local banks.

Gordon Campbell rose to the top of a number of local banks.

ST. PETERSBURG — Gordon Campbell spent his life in charge. He headed banks, sat at the apex of boardroom tables and used his position to better the community.

His personality was one of calm control, of leadership and logic.

His mind was a sponge, soaked by a daily reading stack that looked like a newsstand — the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the St. Petersburg Times, the Tampa Tribune, the American Banker.

"He had a wonderful grasp of everything that he read," said his wife, Pat Campbell. "He retained facts and incidentals. He could talk to anybody about anything. I used to just marvel at that ability. He had that wonderful interest in the world."

Mr. Campbell was born in Iowa, raised traditionally by a salesman father and homemaker mother. He played golf and went to college at the University of Iowa.

He considered insurance sales, but decided banking better fit his personality. After a stint in the Air Force, he worked selling IBM computers to banks. He found he liked the atmosphere.

It was a modest start. He couldn't have known the success ahead.

"I don't know that he ever had great aspirations to be president of anything or run things," said his wife. "But his personality was such that he was always very much in charge and in control."

He worked his way through the banking ranks, eventually becoming an executive at American National Bank in Chicago.

While in Illinois, he met his future wife. She thought he was gorgeous. He thought she was gorgeous. They had the same principles and ideals about life. Four children soon came along.

In 1974, the family moved to Florida. Here, Mr. Campbell rounded out his career leading banks including Exchange Bancorp, NCNB National Bank, Gulf/Bay Bank of Tampa, South Trust Bank of Tampa and Mercantile Bank, which he led until 2002. At one time, he was president of the Florida Bankers Association.

He prided himself on keeping employee pay competitive and camaraderie high. He was known to ask employees about their families and remember hundreds of names.

Outside of work, he served with many civic boards and community groups. In 1975, he co-founded the St. Andrew's Society of Tampa Bay, because when he first arrived in Florida, he realized there was nowhere to celebrate his Scottish heritage and wear his authentic kilts.

Mr. Campbell worked with several charities, hospitals and colleges, including the University of Tampa, where he was on the board of trustees.

"The thing that impressed me the most was that he was a man of integrity and he took his responsibility very seriously," said UT president Ronald Vaughn. "I particularly remember his personal warmth, his great wit and his strong leadership."

At home in St. Petersburg, he loved playing with his grandchildren in the pool, splashing them and letting them swim between his legs.

He was a self-taught sailor who learned to man a ship by reading a library book. The family often went cruising on its sail and power boats (which he always named Argyll after the Scottish chief of Clan Campbell).

Onboard, his wife was the first mate. He, of course, was the skipper.

Each morning, they read Bible devotionals together and discussed them quietly at the kitchen table.

"We would have wonderful discussions," she said. "I'm really going to miss that."

When Mr. Campbell fell ill recently and suffered a series of strokes, his faith helped him find peace.

At his weakest, his wife told him how much she wanted him to live and come home. But, she said, God had a place for him if he was ready to let go.

On Sunday, believing that someone else was in control, Mr. Campbell died. He was 76.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8857.

.Biography

Gordon Campbell

Born: Aug. 17, 1932.

Died: Nov. 9, 2008.

Survivors: wife, Patricia; children, Mark Campbell, Melissa Campbell Harris and her husband, Mike, Elizabeth Campbell Vannoy and her husband, Kevin, Andrea Campbell Vernon and her husband, Patrick; grandchildren, Lillian and Rosemary Vannoy, Amelia and Campbell Vernon, and Jeremy Christopherson and his wife, Lauren.

Services: 11 a.m. Friday at Island Chapel, 1271 Pinellas Bayway S, Tierra Verde.

Bay area banking leader for 35 years, Gordon Campbell dies at 76 11/12/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 14, 2008 7:10pm]

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