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Friends of Fort honor historians

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

(Photo)
Fred Campbell and Don Miller are all smiles as they listen to a guest's story during the Friends of the Fort Scott National Historic Site's fundraiser, Friends Fest, held Tuesday evening at the Liberty Theatre. The two were honored for their service to the community through teaching youth, preserving history in Bourbon County and communicating that history to others.(Jason E. Silvers/Tribune)
About 100 people attended Friends of the Fort Scott National Historic Site's fourth annual Friends Fest Tuesday evening and nearly all of them had a tale to tell about honorees Fred Campbell and Don Miller.

The dinner and fundraiser at the Liberty Theatre bought forth stories from people who know -- or have been influenced and inspired by the two through being one of their students, taking one of their historic tours or simply consulting them on Fort Scott and Bourbon County history.

The pair first got to know each other when Miller completed his student teaching in 1964 at the local junior high school. They have partnered to write books and offer historic tours of the city, county and cemeteries. Chided by hosts Jim Pitts and Cynthia McFarlin, they were noted as people who genuinely care about the community and who have been a guiding light and positive influence on generations of students.

(Photo)
Campbell and Miller share a laugh with fellow historian Arnold Schofield, who presented Miller with a plaque featuring Miller's photo on the cover of a copy of The Tribune in 1962.
(Jason E. Silvers/Tribune)
"They share a legacy that's uncommon to find in any one person," Pitts said.

Mayor Jim Adams and commissioner Allen Warren presented Campbell and Miller with a joint proclamation from the city and county declaring the week of Oct. 8 in their name, which after it was read, was greeted with a standing ovation.

Local historian Arnold Schofield presented Miller with a vintage 1962 photo that appeared on the front page of The Fort Scott Tribune showing Miller as a young Army officer.

(Photo)
Historian Fred Campbell speaks to the audience after being honored with fellow historian Don Miller at Friends Fest at the Liberty Theatre Tuesday evening. The audience of nearly 100 people shared stories about the two and each received a copy of a joint city-county proclamation.(Jason E. Silvers/Tribune)
"These guys are fantastic," Adams said. "... These guys really deserve this."

Matthew Wells, who participates in reenactments at Fort Scott National Historic Site, said Miller was an inspiration to him and got him interested in history and teacher Jim Leek, who retired in June, said Campbell kindled a love of country in him.

Terry Sercer, a local CPA, credits Campbell with sparking a love of history in his daughter that has lasted from fifth grade on.

Sercer said his daughter also worked for Miller weed whacking during the summer. "The lesson here is that the little things we do in life can really have a profound effect on people," Sercer said.

Retired educators Barb Albright and Jim Gill both noted Campbell helped them through the dark day of President John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Albright said Miller has been a "dear friend" for many years.

"I'm so proud to know both of you," she said.

Former Mayor Dick Hedges said he and Fred were supposed to attend a conference in Wichita and share a room. Campbell's wife warned him her husband snored, so Hedges brought a tape recorder with him and compiled evidence. "Vi was vindicated," Hedges quipped.

Ken Lyon said he has known Campbell and Miller most of his life and noted it's amazing what both of them have become. "Fred was kind of an idol of mine," Lyon said. As president of the Old Fort Genealogical Society, he said if he doesn't have the answer, he sends people to Campbell, Miller or Don Banwart.

Jim Scott proposed a toast to Campbell and Miller. "You've become a part of Fort Scott history. Isn't it nice that the two of you were alive when we recognized you?"

On a more serious note, Tom Davis, a teacher at the middle school now in his 43rd year of the profession, said his students often ask him when he'll retire and he answers as soon as he gets as good as Fred Campbell.

For their parts, Campbell and Miller have a mutual admiration society and both accuse the other of having "Goodlander Syndrome," where each has a tendency to exaggerate. "I thank him for being my friend and co-partner," Campbell said.

Miller noted that Campbell doesn't just teach history, "he paints it. You can actually see it as it's in progress." So Miller said he knew he was "in serious trouble" when he had to follow Campbell in the classroom, but he learned.

"It's not how much history you know, but how you present it," Miller said, adding relating learning to the learner is of the utmost importance.

Both were also honored and humbled by their recognition.

"I didn't know what I was getting into," Miller said. "There are some great people in this community that make it go."



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