A dozen years ago (gosh, has it really been that long?) a rather enterprising young reporter came to work for our sister publication, the Memphis Flyer. Phil Campbell quickly found a niche with his offbeat reporting. Among other ventures, he visited a nudist camp, spent the night in an hourly rate motel, and visited a massage parlor where the services included more than just a backrub.
Before he found his way to Memphis, however, Phil had done something that we thought was rather cool. He had discovered that he shared his name with the little town of Phil Campbell, Alabama. Now most people would find that amusing — a town with their name! — and leave it at that. Not our Phil. In those days before the internet made such things easier, Phil managed to track down every other "Phil Campbell" he could find in the U.S. (including at least one Phyliss Campbell), and held a Phil Campbell Convention in Phil Campbell, Alabama. Everyone was provided t-shirts declaring, "Hi, My Name Is Phil Campbell." It was a damn clever thing to do, we thought.
Phil left Memphis several years ago to work as a writer in New York City, but this year decided to hold the biggest Phil Campbell Convention yet. The deadly tornadoes that swept through Alabama on April 27th put a stop to those plans. Except for the water tower and a few sturdy buildings, the little town of Phil Campbell was pretty much wiped off the map. So, instead of the convention, Phil decided to gather together his fellow Phil Campbells and see if they could help "their" town. He even set up a special Facebook page to bring awareness and gather funds.
His efforts have paid off. Phil Campbell from Nottingham, England, put together a YouTube video showing other Phils encouraging support for the little town they have claimed as their own. Phil Campbell from Birmingham, Alabama, traveled there with much-needed supplies of food and water. And Phil Campbell from Australia — yes, Australia — will travel there this month to do what he can, as a pastor.
For more about Phil's rather amazing efforts on behalf of the town, check out the article in this week's Parade magazine. And if you'd like to make a donation to the town, go to Phil's fund-raising website. The Phil Campbells of the world certainly appreciate it.