Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Arthur Lang Campbell (1889–1949)

by Howard Zelling

This article was published:

Arthur Lang Campbell (1889-1949), professor of law, was born on 27 May 1889 at Bowral, New South Wales, son of John Lang Campbell, a hotelkeeper from Scotland, and his native-born wife Elizabeth, née Wood; James Lang Campbell was Arthur's uncle. Educated locally and at Sydney Boys' High School, in 1906 Arthur entered the University of Sydney (B.A., 1909) where he graduated with first-class honours and won university medals for mathematics, French and German. From 1909 he studied mechanical and electrical engineering (B.E., 1913), again topping the first-class honours students; he was sometime president of the undergraduates' association and lectured in mathematics in 1912. After passing the barristers' admission board's examinations, he was admitted to the Bar on 11 May 1914.

For nineteen months from April 1914 Campbell was associate to Justice (Sir) George Rich of the High Court of Australia before being appointed tutor (vice-principal, 1915-17 and 1919-25) at St Andrew's College at the university. In addition to French and German, he spoke Slavonic languages and from 1915 served as an interpreter, as well as a censor of mail and intelligence, until the end of World War I. He had the rank of honorary captain in the Australian Military Forces from 1918 to 1920. Appointed M.B.E. that year, he began practising at the Bar and published the annotated N.S.W. Companies Acts 1899-1918 (1920). In 1922 he travelled to Europe and acted as Rich's secretary at the Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva. Returning home, Campbell was an examiner and temporary lecturer (1924-25) in procedure in the law school of his old university, an examiner in German at the Royal Military College, Federal Capital Territory, and a reporter for the New South Wales State Reports.

Although he had no university degree in law, in September 1925 Campbell was appointed Bonython professor of law at the University of Adelaide. He joined the local League of Nations Union and spoke at its Regal Café lunches; he also became a Freemason, belonged to the Round Table group, joined the Adelaide Club in 1929 and was one of the coterie who read the manuscript of (Sir) Keith Hancock's Australia (London, 1930). While conscientious, Campbell did not prove an outstanding lecturer, but he did enjoy tremendous rapport with his students. President of the university union and of the sports association, he set up a fencing club and played hockey for the university—no mean feat for 'this genial tub of a man' who weighed twenty-two stone (140 kg). He was a member of Scotch College council. In 1936 he published a pamphlet, Public Administration and Constitutional Law. The professor was a consummate bridge player, with almost total recall of scores and hands; he loved ballet; his cuisine and his Chinese cook were famous in Adelaide, and he judged wine shows.

In World War II Campbell acted as a broadcasting and film censor in South Australia (1939-41) and New South Wales (1941-45). With J. W. Wainwright, he was a member of the 1945 royal commission on the Adelaide Electric Supply Co. He died of a coronary occlusion on the night of 19/20 March 1949 at his Walkerville home and was cremated. Having spent nearly twenty-five years teaching the importance of making a will, he died without writing one. His two sisters shared his estate which was sworn for probate at £14,280.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Castles et al (eds), for Faculty of Law, University of Adelaide, Law on North Terrace (Adel, 1983)
  • Grand Lodge of South Australia Archives, Adelaide
  • University of Adelaide Archives
  • private information.

Citation details

Howard Zelling, 'Campbell, Arthur Lang (1889–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 14 June 2024.

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, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


27 May, 1889
Bowral, New South Wales, Australia


19 March, 1949 (aged 59)
Walkerville, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

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