Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Alexander Petrie Campbell (1881–1963)

by Geoffrey Barnes

This article was published:

Alexander Petrie Campbell (1881-1963), Congregational minister, was born on 4 June 1881 at Redfern, Sydney, second son of English-born Rev. George Campbell and his wife Mary Adam, née Petrie, from Scotland. Ordained at Dundee, Scotland, George had come to Sydney where he served the Congregational churches at Redfern and Burwood. Alexander was educated at Newington College and the University of Sydney (B.A., 1904), and continued his studies in theology at Camden College, Glebe.

Ordained in 1905 in his father's church at Burwood, Alexander began his first pastorate at Hunter's Hill Congregational Church. On 25 August 1909 at his father's church he married Margaret Elizabeth, daughter of O. C. Beale. Campbell was called in 1911 to the Killara church where he remained for twenty-seven years during which a growing and influential congregation prospered under his preaching and pastoral care. In 1919 he was chairman of the Congregational Union of New South Wales. He retained a strong interest in theological education as secretary (1920-21) and president (1937-55) of Camden College where he tutored in Greek and taught pastoral theology.

While serving as chairman (1937-39) of the Congregational Union of Australia and New Zealand, in 1938 Campbell became pastor at Burwood. He served there until 1944 when he was called to be moderator of the Congregational Union of New South Wales; previously appointed chairman of its advisory board, he was to serve in this capacity for thirty years. In 1944 the union elected him chairman of the 'Forward Movement'. As moderator, he was a confidant of ministers and the laity.

A deep concern for social justice impelled Campbell to minister to the wider community. He was president (1929) of the Rotary Club of Sydney and vice-president of the New South Wales Society for Crippled Children which was founded by Rotary during his presidential term. Like his father, he served as president (1932 and 1946-63) of the Sydney City Mission. Campbell House at Surry Hills, the mission's centre for homeless and alcoholic men, was to be opened in 1973 and named in his memory. On retiring as moderator in 1951, he edited the New South Wales Congregationalist. He wrote The Great Hill-Climb (1930) and A Word for the Road (1953). In addition to his literary talents, he had a pleasant voice that made him a much-appreciated speaker on radio. Ecumenically, he was widely respected as the architect of Australian proposals for intercommunion.

Campbell was esteemed for his 'austerity tempered with compassion', his concern for others and his 'distaste for party strife', as well as for his discretion, honour and serenity. Congregationalists in New South Wales revered him as an inspiring preacher, a wise administrator and a beloved pastor. In 1962 he was appointed O.B.E. Survived by his wife, daughter and three sons, he died on 13 December 1963 at Wahroonga and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Garrett and L. W. Farr, Camden College (Syd, 1964)
  • J. Owen, The Heart of the City (Syd, 1987)
  • Scottish Australasian, 5 Nov 1919
  • Congregationalist (Sydney), Jan 1964
  • Congregational Union of New South Wales, Year Book, 1965
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 22 Oct 1919, 9 Oct 1937, 2 July 1938, 3 Dec 1963.

Citation details

Geoffrey Barnes, 'Campbell, Alexander Petrie (1881–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 5 December 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2023

Life Summary [details]


4 June, 1881
Redfern, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


13 December, 1963 (aged 82)
Wahroonga, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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