Curt Campbell is not given to self-aggrandizement, choosing instead to serve behind the scenes — doing things for the love of his hometown of Orangeburg.
Whether he's whipping up pancakes for a fund-raising benefit, picking up trash to beautify neighboring streets, donating blood or cleaning up old, overgrown graveyards, Campbell says making Orangeburg and South Carolina a better place is what his life is about.
"Each day has its problems which can be turned into opportunities," Campbell said. "Somehow we have gotten into movie stars and athletes being role models but all they are are movie stars and athletes.
"A lot of times it is the guy next door that goes out and does the community service work, working in a soup kitchen … picking up garbage on the roads. There are many good causes out there. You don't really need to wait to be asked — just show up."
Campbell's dedication and service to the city and to others was recognized Thursday evening as he became the first recipient of the Austin Cunningham Award: "The Austin." The award, sponsored by the Orangeburg County Community of Character, was presented at the 2009 Annual Banquet of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce.
"To emulate somebody like Austin .. is a great goal to shoot for," Campbell said.
He said while he is humbled by the recognition, the award is more of a testament to Cunningham's service than to his own.
"Austin was always present. Half of the battle is just showing up," Campbell said.
The award is presented to someone who exemplifies, promotes and advocates good character and has earned a high level of respect within the community.
Cunningham had decades of experience in helping shape and improve the lives of others. The Orangeburg resident, who died in January, had been named the local Citizen of the Year and the state's Outstanding Elder Citizen of the Year. He also received many other awards and recognitions.
Campbell is the son of the late Mike Campbell, a former city treasurer, and Katherine Campbell, a former math teacher and administrative assistant at Wade Hampton Academy. He said his parents played a great part in the development of his and his brother Randy's community pride.
"My father was a great gentleman and I try to emulate my dad, who was the perfect gentleman," he said. "I got a great work ethic from my mom and my dad."
Campbell said he also received an appreciation for the value of work serving as a newspaper delivery boy for The Times and Democrat and as a bag boy for Piggly Wiggly during his formative childhood years.
Also, "I have a lot of good friends that are community-minded that help keep me focused on the right track," Campbell said.
Campbell works in the sales department of Orangeburg's Coca-Cola Bottling Company. He is a graduate of Wade Hampton Academy and The Citadel.
He has served as president of the Downtown Orangeburg Revitalization Association, and has supported the Taste of Orangeburg, the Christmas parade and the Rose Festival.
Campbell has also offered his talents in the restoration of the city's older cemeteries, as well as helping with the Orangeburg Historical Society.
He has also served as Orangeburg Rotary Club president and works backstage with the Orangeburg Part-Time Players.
Campbell is an active member of Orangeburg's First Presbyterian Church.
He is married to Tamra and they have a teenage daughter, Evan.