[caption id="attachment_21149" align="alignleft" width="1437"] Gray Campbell, 1970. Photo courtesy of his son, Dane Campbell.[/caption]

The Gray Campbell Distinguised Service Award for outstanding service to the publishing and writing community of British Columbia was established in 2000 to honour Gray Campbell, one of the first two trade publishers of British Columbia in the modern era (the other being Art Downs). "This singular honour means more to me than the money we never made!" Campbell said.

Gray's Publishing Ltd. of Sidney published 61 titles between 1962 and 1982. It was established by Gray Campbell, born on Februrary 4, 1912, in Ottawa. He served in the RCMP (1932-1939) and the RCAF (1939-1945) before turning to cattle ranching for 12 years in the Alberta foothills. He published a memoir about his ranching life, We Found Peace, in 1953. He was greatly assisted in his ranching and publishing business by his war bride Eleanor Russell (Benson) Campbell, his partner for "59 glorious years". They moved to the West Coast for health reasons, after which Gray Campbell only entered publishing because a blind war veteran named John Windsor was unable to get his memoir accepted by eastern Canadian publishing houses. Gray Campbell published Windsor's "Blind Date" using a down payment of $250 won in a CBC-TV show called Live A Borrowed Life, forerunner to Front Page Challenge. His office was established in a converted chicken coop behind his house in Sidney. The company's second title was a silly, comic memoir by Hazel O'Neail, "Doukhobor Daze", that did little to engender respect for the much misunderstood and persecuted Doukhobors at the time. In 1964, Campbell published his first bestseller, The Pacific Gardener.

One of Campbell's most significant publications was George Clutesi's Son of Raven, Son of Deer. When Campbell heard about a Port Alberni painter and storyteller named George Clutesi, he went to the Port Alberni Indian Reserve and found the artist fixing his roof. Shy and wary of white men, Clutesi wouldn't come down. Campbell climbed up the ladder and had a long talk. Almost a year later, George Clutesi phoned from the Vancouver Airport to say he was still thinking over what Campbell had said. George Clutesi's Son of Raven, Son of Deer was published in 1967. Clutesi's first book, which was extensively edited, remains in print as the first significant West Coast title about Aboriginal culture to be authored by an Indian. It was followed by George Clutesi's Potlatch (Gray's, 1969, 1971, 1973). Gray Campbell also published a collection of stories gathered from Aboriginal elders for children called Tales from the Longhouse (Gray's, 1973) for the B.C. Indian Arts Society.

Among the other books Gray Campbell published for and about British Columbia are:
--Harry Marriott's "Cariboo Cowboy" 1966
--R.M. Patterson's "Dangerous River" 1966, 1969, 1972, 1980.
--George Clutesi's "Son of Raven, Son of Deer" 1967
--Hugh McKervill's "The Salmon People" 1967
--Muriel Wylie Blanchet's "The Curve of Time" 1968,
--S.W. Jackman's "Portraits of the Premiers" 1969
--William Rodney's "Kootenai Brown" 1969
--Lewis J. Clark's "Wild Flowers of British Columbia" 1973
--Cliff Kopas' "Packhorses to the Pacific" 1976
--Beth Hill's "The Remarkable World of Frances Barkley" 1978
--Gilean Douglas' "The Protected Place" 1979

[caption id="attachment_21148" align="alignleft" width="800"] Gray Campbell, 1964. Photo courtesy of Dane Campbell.[/caption]

In 1983, Gray Campbell sold his company to Gordon Cooper, who retained the name Gray's Publishing. The company went out of business in 1984.

In his retirement, Gray Campbell co-authored Yukon Memories: A Mountie's Story (Whitecap, $12.95) with Jack 'Tich' Watson and a parish history called St. Andrew's Parish of Sidney (Sidney: St Andrew's Anglican Church, 1996) with Marcia LeClair. His own self-effacing memoir was Butter Side Up (Horsdal & Schubart), published by Marlyn Horsdal, one of his former employees.

Gray Campbell died on June 10, 2000, not long after he was able to attend and fully enjoy the presentation of the first Gray Campbell Award in March of that same year to Alan Twigg, publisher of B.C. BookWorld. Subsequent winners have included former bookseller Thora Howell of Nanaimo, Margaret Reynolds, executive director of the Association of Book Publishers of B.C. and former head librarian at UBC, Basil Stuart-Stubbs. [The photo at right was taken when the first Gray Campbell Award was presented.]

Rich Mole, author of Dirty Thirties Desperadoes (2011), has added: "Gray was unusual in many ways, and his uniqueness came early: he was very much a high school athlete, yet by his late teens had a real love of classical music. He witnessed history as a 17 year old high school grad. In Oct., 1929, Campbell became a "board boy", chalking stock prices changes on blackboards in the customer room of an Ottawa brokerage house. He'd only been on the job three weeks (and hating it), when "Black Thursday" occurred--the beginning of the stock market crash. He reluctantly joined some friends in the Canadian Militia. Brokerage house client (and future author), T. Morris Longstreth, advised him to join the RCMP. He did--and loved it.

"Posted to Edmonton as a raw recruit, he was one of a 22-man mounted riot squad which, he maintained, prevented a full-scale riot during the 1932 Hunger March, when the RCMP and a small contingent of city police faced off against an estimated crowd of 10,000, without loss of life. He and other squad members were briefly moved to Calgary, then, to his abject disappoint (he craved Canada's "final frontier," the far north) was posted to isolated little Banff, "where nothing ever happens," as he put it. How wrong he was!

"In the fall of 1935, three Saskatchewan farm-boys of Doukhobor descent went on a robbery and murder spree, which took them from Bonito, Man, to the east gate of Banff National Park. Campbell was fated to witness history again--although, it's "forgotten" history. He was one of 4 officers who stopped the bandit-killers (the kids had already shot and stabbed 2 constables to death in Manitoba.) Within minutes, he was driving two fatally wounded fellow Banff Mounties to hospital in Canmore.

"Decades later, he wrote that nothing "approached the nightmare I endured October 7, 1935, when I stood silhouetted in the headlights, a clear target for the revolvers of three murderers." That was certainly saying something, as he piloted Lancasters in 32 hair-raising bombing raids over Germany during WW II."

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2011] "Biography" "Publishing" "First Nations"