Author Bebe Moore Campbell Explored Race Issues in Novels

Internationally acclaimed best selling author, writer and mental health advocate Elizabeth Bebe Moore Campbell Gordon died peacefully at her home in Los Angeles on Nov. 27 due to complications related to brain cancer. Ms. Campbell was diagnosed with a neurological condition in late February by world renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Keith Black who led her medical team.

"My wife was a phenomenal woman who did it her way," said her husband Ellis Gordon Jr. "She loved her family and her career as a writer. We enjoyed life together as a team and we will miss her immensely and will love her forever."

Ms. Campbell and her husband had been summer residents of Oak Bluffs since 1995. In September 2001 she kicked off a national tour for her fourth novel What You Owe Me, at the Bunch of Grapes Bookstore in Vineyard Haven. In an interview in the Gazette with the late Della Brown Hardman in July 2001 she said she was first introduced to the Island in the 1970s by her godmother, Agnes Louard, a former member of the Columbia School of Social Work.

Elizabeth Bebe Moore was born Feb. 18, 1950 in Philadelphia, Pa., the only child of Doris Moore and the late George L. P. Moore. She was educated in the Philadelphia public schools where she graduated from Philadelphia High School for Girls. She received her bachelor of science degree in elementary education from the University of Pittsburgh in 1971.

Upon graduation from university, Ms. Campbell became a teacher and taught elementary school in Atlanta, Ga., from 1972 to 1975. Bebe quickly learned that teaching was not her life's work. Searching for more, she enrolled in a writing class taught by renowned author Toni Cade Bambara.

Eventually she left teaching and pursued a career in writing, submitting articles and stories to periodicals such as Essence, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Ebony, Seventeen Magazine and Black Enterprise Magazine.

Bebe's career as a writer began to blossom, but not without the growing pains that young writers often experience. Her determined spirit and passion for the craft kept her going and she became a well-known journalist, writing articles for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Essence, Ebony, Black Enterprise, as well as other publications. She also became a regular commentator for National Public Radio's Morning Edition.

She is the author of four New York Times bestselling novels: Brothers and Sisters, Singing in the Come Back Choir, What You Owe Me, and 72 Hour Hold. She is also the author of Los Angeles Times best seller and New York Times notable book of the year, Your Blues Ain't Like Mine for which she won an NAACP Image Award for literature.

Her interest in mental health was motivated by a family member's struggle with mental illness. It was the catalyst for her first children's book, Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry, published in September 2003. The book won the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Outstanding Literature Award for 2003. Following her children's book, Campbell wrote the best seller, 72 Hour Hold, a fictional story about a mother trying to cope with her daughter's bipolar disorder.

As a result of her deep passion and concern for those with mental illness, she became an advocate for mental illness and was one of the founding members of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Urban Los Angeles.

During her illness, Bebe did not stop writing. She wrote for as long as she could. In September 2006, her latest children's book, Stompin' at the Savoy was released. Early next year, I'm So Hungry, another one of her children's books, will be released.

Once when asked about which of her writings was her favorite, Bebe replied, "The one I'm writing now." Bebe loved to write and said this about her books: "My books are always about flawed people trying to get to their healing. And so the message is to keep trying . . . ."

She received numerous awards in her lifetime, including a National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Literature Award (1978), the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Grant (1980), the NAACP Image Award for literature (1994) and the University of Pittsburgh's Distinguished Alumni Award (2003). She was appointed an Alumni Trustee of the University by Chancellor Mark Nordenberg on June 24, 2005.

Earlier this year, when Bebe faced the greatest challenge of her life - brain cancer - she was encouraged by the many expressions of love and concern from friends and supporters around the country, who honored her with a special tribute in September.

She is survived by her husband of 22 years, Ellis Gordon Jr. of Los Angeles; her mother, Doris Moore of Los Angeles; her two children, daughter Maia Campbell of Los Angeles and son Ellis Gordon 3rd of Mitchellville, Md.; son in law Elias Gutierrez of Los Angeles; daughter in law Monica Gordon of Mitchellville, Md.; two granddaughters, Elizabeth Elisha Gutierrez and Zakariya Gordon and a host of other relatives and close friends.

A special viewing for friends and supporters will held today from 10 a.m to 9 p.m. at Angelus Funeral Home in Los Angeles.

Funeral services are set for Saturday, Dec. 2, at First African Methodist Episcopal Church in Los Angeles. The Rev. John J. Hunter is pastor. The viewing is from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and the service will begin promptly at 12:30 p.m.

Donations may be sent to one of her two favorite charities: The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill - Urban Los Angeles, care/of Dr. Lynne Goodloe, 11301 West Olympic Boulevard # 572, Los Angeles, CA 90064; or the United Negro College Fund Inc., care/of Dr. Michael Lomax, president and chief executive officer, 8260 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive, P.O. Box 10444, Fairfax, VA 22031-8044.