Interview Date: Saturday April 20, 2002
Interviewer: Jim Keller
Program: Hauser Project
KELLER: This is an addition to the May 1986 oral history of John G. Campbell who I’m going to refer to as entrepreneur extraordinaire. Founder of CAS and TOCOM Manufacturing Company and the operator of one of the original systems here in Austin, Texas and the man who is probably famous or infamous for taking on the LBJ interests here in the hill country. We are in Austin, Texas. The date is April 20, 2002. John, I don’t want to go and rehash all of the information that we had in the first oral history but that ended in 1986.
KELLER: I would like to start then with 1986 and tell us what you have been doing since that time and how you got re-involved in the industry after retiring.
CAMPBELL: Well, in 1984 we sold TOCOM - merged and sold to General Instruments. Their interest was basically because of our technology and the ? and some of the patents we had. Involved in the two way service type thing. I stayed with – had a contract with them for a year. I did spend a little bit of time but not much on the patents that we had pending and this type of thing. I played golf for a couple of years. Then I had an interest in a bank building which I had, in ’78 I sold my interest in the bank but I still …
KELLER: This was in Irving?
CAMPBELL: In Irving. I was a major general partner, a manager general partner of the building. We had ? partners and we sold that before ?. Sold it in ’81, I believe. But in ’86, just two years after retirement we had to take it back over. So I was just tickled to death to just do something. I actually ran the building for a number of years and my wife would put in an executive suite. She’s an executive secretary. She just loved it. She ran that business for 10 years. When we sold that and moved to Granbury which is my home town where I graduated from high school to a place called Pecan Plantation. It’s a retirement community. Right now about 40 – 45 hundred people. We have our own Channel 45 there. I mentioned this in the oral history. The cable company provided that for us. They serve us and other areas around Granbury. I started programming that. I bought the equipment and finally got the computers and I do everything on the computer using Premiere. So I finally got a guy to come and he’s doing…I did that for 4 years. It was kind of keeping in the cable. I was very close to the people that run the cable system because we were… Now they are bringing in the fiber up there. I think we’re really going to have a nice system in the finish. It’s an old system now.
KELLER: It’s interesting, you’re not an engineer but developed many of these very sophisticated today engineering products that went into the cable ? including the converters and the whole TOCOM two-way system. Your claim not to be anything except a doer, how do you explain this?
CAMPBELL: I don’t know. I had an associate degree from junior college. I did have one year of physics at the University of Arkansas when I was in the service. But I got my start in electronics in the old Granbury - I was the projectionist for the theater during my sophomore and senior year. The old gentleman that taught me projection equipment was an electronic buff and he got me interested and he taught me a lot. Then from that point on when I was in the service I was an electrician. First in the Air Force and they turned a bunch of us loose and I joined the Navy. I was in the electrician branch and I did do a lot of study…
KELLER: So you did have a lot of electronics in the service?
CAMPBELL: Yes. Not really schooling just we had to study to pass certain tests.
KELLER: Seems to me that is your whole history of doing things and learning things as you’re doing them.
CAMPBELL: Well, yeah. The home study courses are good if you can stay with it. A lot of people will read a little bit of it and they get bored and they don’t have something to be able to stick with it and learn which I did. I enjoyed it immensely. See when I got out of the service I did the job in Clifton as a projectionist and I got $50 a week. Every week.
KELLER: That was the best job you ever had. (Laughter)
CAMPBELL: You know, we had a lot of free time in the projection room and I studied. Then opened a radio shop and another shop and I ran the theaters at night and the radio shop in the daytime and went to school in the afternoon.
KELLER: What makes an entrepreneur like you? What drives you?
CAMPBELL: Well, we were talking earlier and I don’t know – when I started something it never was a motive “Well, I’m going to make a bunch of money of this.” I always thought that that kind of takes care of itself but the ability or the opportunity to do it was much stronger than the monetary. While I was at Clifton going to junior college, I took an art class and I learned to do show card with a brush which is part of being in the theater business. You’ve got to make signs and I got pretty good at that. My ambition was to own a little theater and to do radio and then television come along. I read the article about Tarlton, Bob Tarlton in Pennsylvania, Lansford, Pennsylvania – I read the article that was March of ’51 and six month later we were hooked up in the Wells.
KELLER: You just dove in.
CAMPBELL: Sold my home, got a little equity. Sold my car. Mortgaged my kids.
KELLER: You didn’t know if there was going to be business or not. In fact, everyone thought there wasn’t right?
CAMPBELL: I don’t know. I look back and I wonder why I did some of the things. I promised my wife – she thought this was one of the stupidest ventures, her whole family did. Why are you doing that?
KELLER: Your banker told you that too?
CAMPBELL: Oh, the bankers told me that but they weren’t really my bankers because they wouldn’t loan me money. That wouldn’t help me too much on an overdraft. What was I saying?
KELLER: About why you do things…
CAMPBELL: Yes. When Mineral Wells come along, I could just absolutely see this was the future and you know and what I had
KELLER: The first system in Texas. There wasn’t anything else. Nothing to compare it to.
CAMPBELL: I know in the oral histories, didn’t you go back East? I know, I didn’t have a mind to fly to Pennsylvania. I talked to people up there, what little I could read. When I was doing television repair I bought a Philco instrument - Philco 7008…remember that? What it was was a sweep all combined in one unit. The sweep generator, a little scope, a three-inch scope, and a market generator. Well, I aligned TV sets to make them work better in the fringe area. We’d realign them, the IF system so they work better in the fringe area. With that piece of equipment, I was able to analyze and understand what was happening in the cables. That’s how I…you know I bought Blonder Tongue amplifiers, like everybody did. I bought the [Takeco?], I bought the department stuff from Jerrold, but with Entron’s coming into it with a low band, or distribute amplifier, They had a big 12 tubes to amplify one 2,000 foot cable. Then save it, I could make an amplifier with 2 tubes work and that’s what I did.
KELLER: Did you actually build that amplifier?
CAMPBELL: Oh yes.
CAMPBELL: Well, I built the prototypes but there was a company, he was my partner for awhile - Mitchell Industries. They built two-way radios for airplanes and stuff. He came out of Motorola. He was chief engineer of Motorola at one time. And, I learned from him how to do assembly and when I started I hired some girls that had at one time worked for him to do the actual assembly. It was very time consuming.
KELLER: And that was the basis for CAS Engineering?
CAMPBELL: CAS - Community Aerial System was CAS. See I was looking for a name and Bob Tarlton’s…they talked about his community aerial and aerial is a term that I understand they use in Britain and that sounded more feasible than community antenna. So that’s why I call it aerial.
KELLER: And then you started manufacturing equipment for your own use originally?
CAMPBELL: Around Walker Graham come by one day and said “What do you got there?” and I said “Little amplifier.” And he said “Can I take one and try it?” “Yup.” And he came back a few days later and he says “I need about 25 of them.” Says “I’ll buy the parts and stuff if you’ll assemble them.” We did and ….
KELLER: Now, he was going into the business himself?
CAMPBELL: He was in Graham. This was up in ’53, around there. We’d use whatever we could find, Blonder Tongue and take it up until that point. It was so successful, they had a little brochure printed, very newspaper printing and I’d mail it to…at that time you’d look in the Factbook and there was 200 people or 150 addresses and said “Here, you try one and I’ll send it to you. Pay for it and I’ll send it back” and they started ordering them.
KELLER: Then how did that go from your CAS operation to become TOCOM? Which then was very, very sophisticated.
CAMPBELL: Well, while I was in Mineral Wells, after I sold it, I stayed there because I owned the building that we are in and then when we were going to build Austin, I moved my family down here and I decided not to go back to Mineral Wells, but to go to the Dallas because everything was more readily available. I couldn’t hire people out there in engineering capacity as you could in Dallas. So, I picked Irving and the site I first picked is now the playing field for the Texas Stadium, but I couldn’t get sewer and stuff into it so I picked an adjacent spot. But we came there as CAS Manufacturing and I don’t know if you want to go into all this history.
KELLER: Go ahead, I don’t think this have ever been…
CAMPBELL: Some of it has. We didn’t have salesmen particularly, but mostly by mail and by advertising in magazines. While I was still in Mineral Wells, Bob Searle took over a burned out magazine and called me and said would you pay for an ad in advance because I want to start it up again. I did and …
KELLER: Bob or Stan Searle?
CAMPBELL: Bob Searle. No Stan Searle.
KELLER: Stan is Bob’s brother.
CAMPBELL: Yes, Stan Searle. I advertised in his book and the other books and direct mail, we did very extensive direct mail.
KELLER: What was the largest sales number that CAS ever had in a year?
CAMPBELL: 25 million. Not CAS, didn’t have that much but TOCOM did.
KELLER: Okay, that’s TOCOM but what about CAS?
CAMPBELL: CAS probably made a half a million. We moved in ’64 to Irving, maybe 45? million because we were doing a lot of turnkey stuff. What we called a kind of modified turnkey. We arranged to buy the tower from somebody and then we’d come in and do the installation. This is what Herb was doing. In ’69 I was buyer Channel Master. Which was Adnet, a division of Adnet. They wanted to get in the cable business because it kind of bombed out with being in, they saw they were losing a lot of their business and they were part of TAME. Anyway, they said….
KELLER: Antenna Manufacturing Association, TAME
CAMPBELL: Yes, something like that. Anyway, they approached us and I went to New York and visited with them. Adnet was their big company, their distributers. We merged into them, taking stock.
KELLER: This was CAS right?
CAMPBELL: CAS. And we were a division of Adnet for a year and a half, two years. Sel Herlihy, he was the manager of the Master Channel Master Division. He says we want to get big in cable so you come up with an idea, they’ll front it. You know, to be big in the cable industry, so we came up the TOCOM system, total communications system. A basic concept and how it would work.
KELLER: What year was this?
CAMPBELL: ’70. I don’t know exactly ’70. We were getting ready to go to the Chicago Show and introduce it and that was when Lane TemCo bought, were going down and all the big companies and Simon Shied, chairman of Adnet said we’re not going to going to be another Lane Temco. If we have another division that’s not making money and so forth, we’re going to get rid of it. I had an incentive program where we got additional stock and they poured money into it. We built cable systems, new building, put a lot of money into it, CAS at the time.
KELLER: You mean as chairman of CAS?
CAMPBELL: I was president or whatever it was. When this all happened, I said well, I’ll just buy it back and Simon said “Okay”. We scratched out and little deal and he went back to New York with the deal and Simon said “Well, how’s he going to pay for it?” You know $140,000 dollars plus giving them the stock back. I don’t know? What we did was bought us a cable system. Paid them off.
KELLER: Which ones did you have at that time?
CAMPBELL: Oh, let’s see. Several of them down in Louisiana. I don’t even recall the name of the town. We had Athens, Texas which is just south of Dallas. One up in Oklahoma.
KELLER: You had built these systems?
CAMPBELL: We built them as a division of Adnet and they provided the funds to build them. They were all free and clear and all I had to do was call folks and we borrowed the money.
KELLER: So you used their assets and you mortgaged their assets to pay them off for what you bought them for? Am I right?
CAMPBELL: And then we got TOCOM for free. They had put over a million dollars into it.
KELLER: In 1970, the use of the cable work two-way communications was just pie in the sky.
CAMPBELL: Oh, yeah.
KELLER: Everyone said well sooner or later we were going to be able to do this. You said let’s see if we can do it.
CAMPBELL: What came about here --- okay, we introduced the TOCOM system. So we went on to the show and introduced it as the teledivision of Adnet. When I made the buyback we started looking at what we were going to do, so we put together a package and went public. And the brokerage firm says CAS Manufacturing; the name is not too good for selling stock so we got TOCOM. We changed the name to TOCOM.
KELLER: Total Communications.
CAMPBELL: TOCOM, yes and went public and raised 2.5 million dollars I believe. We had got the franchise in Irving and had built 2 to 3 miles of plant. We were experimenting between our apartment and the headend site with two way cable and an outfit that was building it for us in Irving, DH Level Company out of El Paso; they wanted to get in the cable business. So they contracted with us to take over their urban system and fund it. Then later, they pulled. So we went public in ’72 as TOCOM and lasted in 12 years.
KELLER: you went public selling this pie in the sky concept of two-way communications under cable and it sold.
CAMPBELL: Oh yeah. See, TelePrompTer and all these people were vying for these big franchises ---now this is before the satellites and we knew you couldn’t sell just the local channels, you had to have something else. Something else to sell. That was security or something over cable television. But if 8 or 10 of these people had got these franchises and were going to build pilot systems, that was going to be big business for us. That’s why we pursued it. Then when the Title 13, which was HUD funded new town comes…there 13 of them around the country. Flower Mountain, Texas was one of them. One up in Georgia. They were all over the country. The one down here, Woodlands. One thing they got guaranteed loans from the government to go in and develop these innovative towns and so we had everyone of them sold. Everyone of them contracted to buy TOCOM system to go into them because they wanted security. We monitored down here when the Roots came. Remember the Roots series? During that time we were monitoring everything people were watching. When and so forth. I remember seeing the Roots results. Everyone was watching Roots at 10 o’clock or whenever that changed, they all went to other channels. We monitored that continuously.
KELLER: This was in Woodlands? Where you had a system?
CAMPBELL: Woodlands and we built some other ones with our first … then we end up not selling much of it until the next big ? ‘70s, 78, 79 when the franchise started again because of the satellites. You could make it feasible in an urban area. But then the franchising became so intense that everyone was trying to outdo and we talked about that and practically every franchise in the country at that time, they were really vying, had some part of TOCOM as part of their system. All lot of them, I would think sold 78 computer systems, $100,000 systems. Very few of them actually got put into use. There’s one sitting up there at the Cable Center now. That big orange and green.
KELLER: I’ve seen it.
CAMPBELL: I was surprised to see it the other day myself. I didn’t know they had it. I didn’t know where they all went. I kept most of the small equipment.
KELLER: So then you sold TOCOM to General Instruments and that deal didn’t work out to well, did it?
CAMPBELL: Well, at one point see we did two or three splits in our stocks. So we started at $3, we split and we’d have more shares at $3. You know how that goes. And then the stock moved up, like $1 stock is now $16 stock. Then there was a slowdown in the business and our problem was…
KELLER: Slowdown in the economy at that time.
CAMPBELL: Economy and the… our creditability as a small company to be able to deliver our technology if they committed to do it was a real problem for the operators. I understood that. So we thought we had to find some big money and we talked to Times Fiber…
KELLER: Larry DeGeorge at that time.
CAMPBELL: Larry DeGeorge … actually we pretty well had a deal put together, something happened to that. I think that was around $6 a share. Then the next deal…there was one gentleman, I can’t remember his name, in General Instrument, that really liked the deal. He was sold on the master? operation. Nobody else was.
KELLER: You had a plant in Mexico?
CAMPBELL: Had a plant in Mexico. Originally in 1970 we started. This was a small plant and we sold it, we employed about 2000 people. Assembly. Built basically the converter box. Built some other things there but more the specialized we built in Irving. Ones, twos, tens we built there. But then we merged with General Instruments. I believe the deal was $4 a share before it closed it was $3. It was still good but not as good as we would liked it to be but that at that time I was getting a little greedy. (Laugh)
KELLER: Okay. You didn’t want to make money but you wanted to be greedy.
CAMPBELL: No, I always wanted to make money but it wasn’t a driving force. It really wasn’t. What I got so much satisfaction from was building the product, selling and seeing it work. This is a long story but I dealt with ham operators that were dedicated technicians. They spent all their time building something just to talk to somebody and I said “Why can’t you spend the same time building something that you could sell and then make some money?” It’s just as much fun to build something as long as it works.
KELLER: Now when did you know that the TOCOM equipment worked and that your idea came to fruition?
CAMPBELL: What happened in Woodlands, we actually contracted to run the system for them so we had full time man down there and general manager. We had a construction crew. This was after Herb but we actually laid in this new development…there was power and telephone and all… we contracted…
KELLER: Now you’re talking about Herb Jackson, who was a construction person at that time.
CAMPBELL: Herb was… this was after Herb.
KELLER: I do want to make that reference because you use the term earlier.
CAMPBELL: Yes, but we contracted with the power company and the telephone company and we put all the cable in the ground.
KELLER: So you knew it worked after it was installed.
CAMPBELL: See that was a very primitive system. We were able to develop…living in the Dallas area we had access to top notch engineers out of TI. Several companies very high tech companies there. We had basically the three groups – the communications group, the RF communications, the computer group-software and then the hardware. So all of them worked together to finish the project.
KELLER: So now you have a finished product. You merged the finished product from TOCOM into General Instruments. What happened then?
CAMPBELL: Well, as I said, I had a year contract. I had an office but I did do some work with their lawyers on the patents but I was completely out of it. Mike Corboy. Who was president of TOCOM - he stayed with them for a year or so.
KELLER: You were going through the patent process again? Or you had some patent you had applied for?
CAMPBELL: We had some patents we had applied for.
KELLER: whatever happened to those?
CAMPBELL: Some of them were issued. One of them had to do with impulse pay per view. On Demand on a one way system. The way that worked…basically one of our guys came up with the idea…if I can remember…a person could order so many credits in advance or you could extend it to them and credit. They could look at the picture and see how many credits it was going to cost them to watch that movie and if they liked to take it, why they could turn it on. But it was all one way. That patent, I think was issued, was part of the… I think it did run into some problems with other patents in some respect. The original patent we had which was filed and received in 1971 had to do with two-way communications, upstream and downstream. One that was based a lot on ? from a couple of companies, mostly in the security end of it. Two or three other patents.
KELLER: Now did GI continue to build some of your patents or make….
CAMPBELL: They continued to because they bought everything, bought the patents. They had some of their own, not particularly in this area. I reviewed some recently on the internet. It’s like going to a library now if you want to do it. You know patents are a thing that technology moves so fast that somebody is coming up with something new, obsoletion. That’s what happened to our basic patent on the two way system. Is that the next technology is outdated.
KELLER: My point is that any of the equipment that you had begun developing has any of that survived? Used in today’s market?
CAMPBELL: The baseband. That’s part of everybody’s deal.
KELLER: They’re converters?
CAMPBELL: Yes, converters. See, you tune the channel just like a TV set, brings it down to video, then you retransmit it up the channel and while it’s video or baseband, you do a lot with it. You substitute sound, you control sound, you substitute graphics. It’s like captioning being done. The technology to do that is basically used in all these menus that you see on the screen now. See that’s part of it. The scrambling was much better because you can do lots with it in baseband that you couldn’t do straight RF converter.
KELLER: Why do you think that the security systems over cable never really got off the ground?
CAMPBELL: I think that the cable operators spent too much time and money trying to develop their pay customers and neglected the…we put in systems for Sammons in Highland Park and that company was never in the red from day one. We had an easy sell. We would follow-up with the cable guys and people would listen because there was so much publicity about security.
KELLER: They were in very, very high end communities.
CAMPBELL: Well, some of it was and some of it wasn’t. The liability of cable probably could have hurt it some because ? Telephone’s probably, the dialing systems were..didn’t have to that fast. The dialing system could be fast as the cable. It was probably a little cheaper to do it that way and you didn’t have to maintain the upstream cable unless you used it for something else. It was pretty
KELLER: My theory was that the operators never really understood it and secondly, they were very, very concerned about the liability that security would provide them.
CAMPBELL: Liability never became a factor. We had a couple of situations in some of it but it never did materialize. It wasn’t really a big problem.
KELLER: I’m saying that the concern about liability was…
CAMPBELL: I think it was too.
KELLER: I know it wasn’t inconceivable.
CAMPBELL: You get hit on the head more than you could say grace over it just doing the cable. Security certainly wouldn’t compare with the income from what you get off of HBO.
KELLER: So after you sold or merged TOCOM into GI, General Instruments, you went back to play golf again?
CAMPBELL: that’s when I took a couple of years off before I got involved in taking the building back over. I’m retired. I flunked my first retirement but I made this last one.
KELLER: Do you think it’s going to stick?
CAMPBELL: Oh, you bet. I’m at peace with the world.
KELLER: your history and you admitted this yourself is that when you start something, you’re all excited about it, but you move on and pretty soon you get bored with it and you start something else.
CAMPBELL: That was the key to it; get somebody else to carry it on.
KELLER: But no one else can carry on your retirement.
KELLER: You’re not going to get bored with retirement.
KELLER: You’re only 75 years old.
CAMPBELL: Just over 75. With a pace maker.
KELLER: What’s your next challenge going to be?
CAMPBELL: I got it figured out how I can shoot my age in golf but I’m going to have to live to be 104. (Laughter). I don’t know if I’ll make it or not. The thing about playing golf, you improve a little bit and age kind of takes it away from you. Your back swing is not good as it used to be and your eyes not as good. So I never improved. If I can stay where I am, I’ll be happy.
CAMPBELL: No, if I can par, it is a 100. If I can shoot under 100, I’m happy.
KELLER: Which means that you’re probably as a sandbagger, you’re probably shooting around 80. Were to believe that.
CAMPBELL: Ok. You have to believe what you believe.
KELLER: I want to go back and touch again upon something that you really have talked about and talked about in broad generalities but you rarely got specific and that is your internal conflict, not in Austin, with the LBJ interests. You took on this project knowing that sooner or later that you were going to butt heads with this guy. Yes or no?
CAMPBELL: Yes, probably. My first thought as far as making the best, even if we didn’t get the microwave, we had South Austin. We had a tower there and we had a system there. Even off air we could have done fairly well because they’re the back side of a mountain and there’s 20,000 people. Good sized town. We were able to get the microwave and be able to serve the rest of it. At one point, I didn’t think we were going to have any competition and I got into this yesterday at how it arrived and came about. If I had been looking at the dollars and cents, I’d had a made a deal early on because I had plenty of opportunity.
KELLER: They came to you and tried to make a deal?
CAMPBELL: Yeah. This was through my banker in Mineral Wells. He was big Democrat on a first name basis with LBJ and Walter Jenkins. He said “Why don’t you make a deal with him? We can’t loan you the money, but we can give you the money you have here.” The money we already had in the bank.
KELLER: Why didn’t you make a deal?
CAMPBELL: I really don’t know. I think it came down to my oldest son. We were talking about it and he was maybe16 at the time and he said “Dad, you’re not going to give up and merge with them are you?” Now that shouldn’t be a big factor but it was. I look back where I could have....see old George Morrell; we got the franchise that day. George Morrell, Midwest Video and Capital Cable. He owned all it. The just had an option, LBJ had an option to buy it.
KELLER: Give 50% to LBJ?
CAMPBELL: And all he had to pay was cost. The day we got the franchise, a fellow named Gibbens, Wayne Gibbens, he was a state representative, very good friend of mine from Mineral Wells. He was working for George because he was a junior representative, senate and had to make a little money on the side. So he come to me and said George wants to meet with you. Fine. George promised me the moon that night and I didn’t believe a word he said. So the next contact – Tubby Flynn – maybe it wasn’t the next, Tubby was from Tyler who owned the Tyler system. George ? come by and visits with me. Said we ought to get together and I said…by this time we saw the writing was on the wall and we should do something. The bankers in New Orleans were getting… he was now president.
KELLER: LBJ was now president?
CAMPBELL: Early on I had a contact from a high school friend of mine who was with Jim Wright. Went with him as an administrative assistant. Jim Wright was speaker of the house later, but when he first went into congress, he went with him as his administrative assistant. “Mule Wrap” he called me. Hadn’t talked to him in 15 years. Said “Is there any way we can get together?” I can’t remember what I told him but we didn’t. Because LBJ threw Jim Wright…he had his fingers on everything. A guy came to me after I first started here and said “My wife works out at the air base and you can’t use anything I tell you because she will lose her job. If he finds out that I’m working with or helping you.” I’ll tell you what if the IRS didn’t show up at your door step at some time when you took a position opposite him – why you’d be surprised. I was too visible during to ?
KELLER: He was an amazing man.
CAMPBELL: Yes. Like I said earlier, he did a lot of good things. Because that was his legacy except Viet Nam. He had a problem with that.
KELLER: Sure did. Others did too. So then, he continued then to eventually own 50% of the Austin system?
KELLER: Continued to own at that time the only television station in town?
CAMPBELL: Yes, LBJ…it was called the LBJ Company and they changed it to Texas Broadcast, something like that, when he became very visible. I know, this hit newspapers all over the country, this like everything does when you are president. I know one time when the newspaper said you’re the number two story today, nationally. (Laughter) I wasn’t handling it too well.
KELLER: How were you not handling it?
CAMPBELL: Oh, I don’t know. Well, I guess I was handling it all right. Maybe I was too naïve to let it really bother me. Herb Jackson, after one night said “John, doesn’t this bother you?” I said “Nah, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with cold sweats but other than that, it don’t bother me.” (laughter) Later on in life, I started being more concerned with the future and security and this type of thing, but at that time I can’t recall I ever looked back on a deal.
KELLER: You said that money wasn’t your primary interest, but it had… your pride had to have something to with the fact that either you did or didn’t get that deal.
CAMPBELL: I was not a Democrat, damn sure wasn’t an LBJ Democrat. I saw what happened in Mineral Wells. You know when their people would come in and try organize things. Very pushy. I just didn’t like it.
KELLER: You mean during his campaigns.
CAMPBELL: Yes. Campaigns. This before we ever came down here. I know I wrote a letter to the editor one time and told about this guy, who I forget his name, but he was a LBJ man come in an put pressure on some of us and I wrote it all in a letter and I kind of got in hot water with some friends who were Democrats about the…
KELLER: Do you believe that LBJ himself realized that you had been a thorn in his side in Mineral Wells or other places?
CAMPBELL: Oh no, not in Mineral Wells. First thing that I recall was Jenkins, Warren Jenkins called a banker, Frank Eubanks was one of them but the other gentleman called him and says “Who is he and what’s his politics?” I mean, that’s the way he operated. Right following the assassination, I suggested that all these reporters came in and start looking into his business everywhere and one of them, somebody Barron, his lead man, they had investigative reporters and then they had a guy who come in and wrote the story. It was an investigative reporter. Wanted to know about banking in Texas. I said “Man, I don’t know anything about banking but I’ll introduce you to some.” We went down to the Austin National Bank and met a guy that I dealt with there. He was kind of anti-Johnson and he told us that in Texas if you own control of a bank in a community you control the community. So that’s LBJ’s philosophy. He had his hand in a lot of banks. Not actually a lot of them but I know several of them.
KELLER: Here in Austin too?
CAMPBELL: Too what extent I don’t know. I cannot speak to that. I know he had some influence with the SBIG, Small Business Investment Group, up in Houston. Actually shut us off… it’s what he promised to do. As vice-president, nobody was deeply concerned with him. I heard some people say that even people in Austin that step out on the street and called him an SOB. (Laughter) You laugh down the street when he becomes vice-president, but president’s a little different.
KELLER: And then when he retired, he went back down to the city.
CAMPBELL: Oh I think it was all over as far as…they sold the station too, didn’t they?
KELLER: They sold everything. He started out as a pauper and ended up a millionaire as president.
CAMPBELL: I have an interesting sideline to tell about LBJ. The Clint Small Firm which I mentioned yesterday, which was Charlie Herring, who was state senator. State Senator Herring, my friend Tom Creighton, they were friends. He was in this law firm with Clint Small, Jr. and Clint Small, Sr. Senior was way up in the years…he’s older than I am right now…he reminisced a lot and he was keeping with this and he represented during the time LBJ supposedly stole box 13, then the country. He represented Stevenson against LBJ.
KELLER: He was running against in the primary.
CAMPBELL: Well, they got down to what was it, 90 votes or something in the whole state of Texas. The recounts and all this stuff but you know, Stevenson lost. Clinton, Jr. he says “I stepped off the elevator”… I guess he was in the Senate himself… “I stepped off the elevator in the Capitol and they were collecting money to send LBJ, this was when he was a Congressman, they were collecting money for him so he could go…help him make his move to Washington. He says “I didn’t donate then, I’m not donating now.” (Laughter) I’ll never forget that old gentleman. He was either an LBJ supporter or you weren’t. Apparently, where the votes come out.
KELLER: I’m going to wrap this up now John and I want to say that to chat with you is a thorough delight. I think anyone viewing this tape should also review your original tape because we’ve also tried to supplement that in our discussion today. And also review the tape of our panel discussion of yesterday which has to do with cable television in the state of Texas. Both of which will give additional insight into John Campbell, who again, I have to say is a remarkable man. Remarkable in the fact that he is an entrepreneur. He is an engineer who had never been an engineer. He is a Texan through and through who is really not a Texan, and he is just a walking enigma. A man that the industry admires and I’m sure forever will be admired in the state of Texas. Thanks again John.
CAMPBELL: Well thank you. It has been a delight to do this with you.
END OF INTERVIEW