The son of a carpenter, Campbell grew up in East Chicago, Indiana, where he experienced discrimination that would influence both his professional and personal activities. After serving in the U.S. Army at the end of World War II he attended Indiana University Northwest in Gary, Indiana, and then the Illinois Institute of Technology. In various partnerships with his daughter Susan Campbell Smith, John Macsai and Domingo Tiu, he focused on urban renewal projects, affordable housing projects, and key projects in the African-American community such as the remodeling of and addition to the DuSable Museum of African American History. In 1971 Campbell was a founder and first president of the National Organization of Minority Architects, through which he mentored young architects.
Campbell describes racial discrimination among various architecture firms when he was seeking employment and membership in the AIA; comments that people do not buy houses, they buy communities; helping to build communities leads to building a clientele.