It was 1992, and Memphis had nailed down a powerful deal. The federal government of Turkey had agreed to launch a lot of its cultural treasures for a particular exhibit in Memphis, together with the Topkapi dagger, a decorative weapon embellished with large emeralds.
One man would personally transport this Turkish nationwide treasure to Memphis. His title was Glen Campbell. He made the aircraft journey with the case holding the dagger handcuffed to his wrist.
That was one in every of many adventures that Campbell skilled as a high-level administrator inside the Wonders exhibition collection.
Campbell died Dec. 18 after struggling a stroke 5 days earlier, his son John Campbell mentioned. He was 69.
Among the many different objects Campbell and the Wonders crew helped deliver to Memphis have been the purple and gold carriage that introduced Russian empress Catherine the Nice to her 1762 coronation, an enormous portrait of French emperor Napoleon by grasp painter Jacques-Louis David and life-sized soldier statues collected from Chinese language imperial tombs.
Displays at The Pyramid and different large Memphis venues drew tons of of hundreds of individuals from the late Eighties till the ultimate exhibit in 2005. Campbell performed a key position within the negotiations with overseas governments for loans of the artifacts.
To not be confused with the late country singer of the same name, Campbell can be remembered for his experience in judo, a Japanese sport just like wrestling. He was a high-level black belt and completed fifth within the 1972 U.S. Olympic trials. He was nonetheless teaching college students shortly earlier than his loss of life.
Pulling off “inconceivable” artwork mortgage offers
The historical past of the Wonders exhibit dates to the late Eighties, when late Memphis cotton govt Rudi Scheidt and his spouse Honey Scheidt labored with then-mayor Dick Hackett to deliver a top-level exhibit of Egyptian antiquities to Memphis.
Hackett had recognized Campbell since they have been college students collectively at Hillcrest Excessive College in Whitehaven and recalled him as extremely smart with many buddies. Campbell would later go to work within the metropolis’s parks division and it was from there that he joined Hackett within the cultural undertaking.
Hackett described how he and Campbell visited the town of Memphis in Egypt and first noticed a huge statue of pharaoh Ramesses the Nice.
“The Ramesses statue was in shambles, in a number of items facedown within the mud,” Hackett recalled this week. “And I mentioned ‘Let’s get that restored.’ He mentioned ‘what?'”
“He would take an inconceivable assertion like that and make it occur.”
Campbell and the crew managed to achieve a take care of the Egyptian authorities, restore the Ramesses statue and produce it to Memphis because the centerpiece of an exhibition.
The Ramesses the Nice exhibition opened in 1987, drew a reported 674,395 guests and turned a revenue of $1 million.
“We have been the primary establishment apart from a museum that had completed a large-scale worldwide exhibition, and positively nothing like this had ever come to this space,” Campbell mentioned in a 2006 interview. He referred to as it “museum gentle,” an entertaining mix of superb artwork and historical past. “We made it straightforward for folks to grasp and revel in and, hopefully, grow to be extra culturally conscious.”
The unique statue was returned to Egypt. A reproduction statue now stands on the College of Memphis.
That first exhibit set the stage for the next Wonders collection, which started as an arm of metropolis authorities and later spun off right into a separate entity.
Working with a crew that included Hackett, Wonders govt Jim Broughton and others, Campbell would meet in particular person with notable world leaders. To line up an exhibit of Etruscan artwork borrowed from the Vatican, Campbell and the crew met Pope John Paul II.
His spouse Nellie Campbell mentioned she all the time requested her husband to deliver residence souvenirs. He did so on the Vatican journey. “He got here with a bust of Julius Cesar made out of marble. That factor weighs a small ton.”
As we speak that bust decorates their residence close to Horn Lake together with gadgets from Glen Campbell’s different pursuits: memorabilia from System One racing, posters from previous horror films, together with “The Blob” and binoculars at strategic factors close to home windows to observe birds, she mentioned.
How did he persuade the overseas officers handy over their artwork treasures? Hackett mentioned Campbell was a fast examine and already knew quite a bit in regards to the historical past of many nations.
“He was honest about eager to share the tradition,” Hackett mentioned. “He clearly beloved Memphis. And he was so good at convincing and choosing out the objects.”
Campbell would search spectacular centerpiece objects that may impress the typical particular person, Hackett recalled.
The jeweled Topkapi dagger was a type of. Campbell realized that one of many key Turkish officers had a wrestling background — just like his personal longtime curiosity in judo — and in a dialog final 12 months Campbell recalled utilizing that background to construct rapport with the official and assist shut the deal.
The Turkish officers would solely let the dagger go below heavy safety: Campbell’s son John Campbell mentioned in Turkey, his father was transported to the airport in an armored car and accompanied by armed guards on the aircraft to the U.S.
The Wonders collection bumped into monetary bother as attendance lagged for among the remaining exhibitions within the collection. The final exhibit was 2005’s “The Artwork of the Bike.” For Glen Campbell, the top of this system was a disappointment. However he would later discover which means in a sport he’d practiced for years, judo.
In retirement, Campbell stepped up his judo teaching, understanding at venues together with The Struggle Clinic in Olive Department and later Memphis Judo & Jiu-Jitsu.
He tended to deliver out the very best in college students, treating the much less athletic as if they, too, have been true athletes. On the highway to tournaments, he’d typically play Broadway present tunes and previous radio dramas on the car’s stereo.