Dr. Willa's obituary
Our beloved Dr. Willa Alfreda Campbell-Wilson passed away on Tuesday, December 25, 2018. Join us for her memorial to celebrate her life on January 5, 2019, at Triumph Missionary Baptist Church in Washington, NC.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to South Carolina State College Foundation ( https://scstateconnect.scsu.e…) or the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Dr. Willa Alfreda (Freda) Campbell-Wilson, 70 years old, champion and advocate of Speech-Language Pathology and universal health care, entered into eternal rest on Tuesday, December 25, 2018. Following a valiant battle with an extended illness, Freda joined her beloved parents Albert “Doc” Campbell and Georgia McKinnie Campbell in paradise.
She was born to her educator parents in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1948 and was blessed to grow up with a loving family in a community of teachers, civil rights activists, and faith leaders during one of the most critical turning points in American history. She came of age in the 1960s and dedicated her energy and passion for justice to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), NAACP voter registration campaigns, civil disobedience, freedom marches, and sit-ins. In 1968, she survived the Orangeburg Massacre when police opened fire on a crowd of people protesting segregation, killing three and injuring 28 people in her South Carolina State College community. This tragic event inspired her continued efforts to advance human rights and equality in the US and abroad for the rest of her life.
Wilson was a feminist, social justice activist, scholar, and international healthcare development, specialist. She served in such diverse roles as CEO, director, consultant, project officer, and professor at universities and healthcare agencies in national and international arenas. Each of these roles required leadership and development skills. She has served as Professor of Communication Disorders at Florida State University, South Carolina State University, King Saud University, San Jose State University, Tennessee State University, and Jackson State University over a period of nearly forty years.
Before working in education and healthcare development in the Middle East, Dr. Wilson served as Professor of Communication Disorders and Clinical Supervisor at South Carolina State University. She also concurrently served as the lead investigator of the Communication in Rural Children research project, a USDA federally-funded initiative.
She served as Manager of SLP/pediatrics at the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System; Director of Programs at the Regional Center for Rehabilitation at the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System; Major Gifts Officer in the Division of Institutional Advancement at North Carolina Central University; Executive Director of the Jeddah Institute for Speech and Hearing; Professor and Chair of the Communication Disorders Program at King Saud University; Director of Communication Disorders at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, and most recently the Director of the inaugural accredited program in Speech and Language Pathology at Francis Marion University.
During the earlier stage of her career, before venturing abroad where she became affectionately known as the “American mother of Speech-Language Pathology in Saudi Arabia,” she was the protégé of the late Dr. Harold Powell, the founding chair of the SLP/A Department at SCSU. From 1975 to 1978, she was the first African American faculty member in the Department of Communication Disorders at Florida State University.
She was the first African American to earn masters and doctoral degrees in Communication Disorders from the University of Illinois in 1972 and 1975, respectively. Her research, teaching, and clinical interests were in the areas of international and multicultural perspectives in speech-language pathology, child language developmental disabilities and neurogenics. Dr. Wilson was especially interested in issues impacting underserved, multicultural, rural, and remote populations. She did extensive research, teaching, and clinical service in the Middle East and the Arab Diaspora.
A distinguished Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) since 1995, she was the Palmetto Upstate Woman of the Year and South Carolina Career Woman of the Year. She received the NAFEO Distinguished Alumni Award and served as the Dwight D. Eisenhower Citizen’s Ambassador for Russia and the Czech Republic. She was also a Fulbright Scholar in India.
Surviving Dr. Wilson are her husband of 44 years, Dr. Johnny R. Wilson (retired and part-time Professor at Francis Marion University), her daughter Jamia Akilah Wilson (author, speaker, director of the Feminist Press at CUNY), her sister Dr. Kay Frances Campbell (artist), her son-in-law Travis Sullivan (jazz musician and music educator), and a host of cousins, nieces, and nephews on the McKinnie, Campbell and Wilson sides of her family throughout the Continental USA.