RACINE - Edward J. Campbell was first and foremost a business man.
Campbell, a former president and chief executive officer for J.I. Case Co., has been described by those close to him as abrupt, tough and no-nonsense, but he knew how to succeed and always got the job done.
Campbell died Friday from complications of Alzheimer's. He was 82.
"He was a very outgoing business guy," said Campbell's son, Gary Campbell. "He knew how to make money and he didn't always make a lot of friends doing it but the company and business always came first."
Gary Campbell said his dad always enjoyed what he did and, of the many companies that he worked for, liked Case the best in part because it offered challenges like contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers Local 180, a group that came to like and respect Edward Campbell. Gary Campbell said union workers had fair wages under his father and that after his dad's retirement, he remembers strikers holding signs that read, "We want Ed Campbell back."
"He had kind of a very positive impact on we as union people," said John Dexter, a retired assembly worker for Case who served under Edward Campbell. "He just had a positive view of Case and its being a very important milestone for Racine."
Dexter, 69, of Mount Pleasant, said he and other union workers knew Edward Campbell felt proud of Racine and Case because he came back to the company after a 13-year absence.
Edward Campbell first moved to Racine and started working for Case in 1968 after stints at three other major manufacturers. Journal Times archives report that Campbell rose quickly in the company and held positions including overseeing Case's agriculture equipment division and North American operations before becoming Case executive vice president in 1976.
Campbell then left Case in 1978 for an executive position at Newport News Shipbuilding, a Virginia-based company that was a subsidiary of Tenneco, as Case was at that time. At Newport News Shipbuilding, Campbell was known for his work settling a labor strike and improving relations with the U.S. Navy, according to Journal Times archives.
Campbell stayed at Newport News Shipbuilding until he was persuaded to return to Racine for a top job at Case in 1992. That year, he became Case president and chief executive officer.
Campbell retired from that post in 1994 and continued living in the Racine area, where two of Campbell's three children and his ex-wife still live, said Gary Campbell, 59, of Wind Point.
As a retired man, Edward Campbell most recently lived in the Wind Meadows neighborhood in Wind Point where he was a favorite among his neighbors known for welcoming them to the area when they moved in.
"He was engaged in people. Everything you said he was more than interested in," said neighbor Margaret Fliss, imitating the way Campbell would lean into a conversation and maintain a look of curiosity. She said that Edward and Gary were quite close - noting what a dutiful son Gary had been when Edward was ill - and that Edward had his own stories to tell.
Fliss said Edward Campbell had a framed picture of himself and the Queen of England breaking a champagne bottle over a ship to christen it. He also had a letter in his kitchen from Henry Kissinger, Gary Campbell said, and was fairly close to President George H.W. Bush, whom he met in the Virginia shipyards.
"He was a prince of a man," Fliss said. "A real gentleman."