Nedra Campbell ’90 spends her days fighting for the rights of those who are not treated equitably. Following her time at GPS, she attended Duke University on an Army ROTC scholarship and was commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation. She went on to earn her law degree from Georgetown University and moved to Detroit, Michigan, to begin practicing law. Today, Campbell works for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces federal anti-discrimination laws, including laws that prohibit race, sex, age, and disability discrimination. She has litigated more than 100 cases in federal and state courts and serves on the State Bar of Michigan’s Labor and Employment Law Section Council. If that’s not enough, she published her book, More Justice, More Peace: The Black Person’s Guide to the Legal System, in 2003.
Q. How did you get into what you’re doing now? Did you always know you wanted to be a civil rights attorney?
A. I pretty much always knew I wanted to do the type of work I do. I have been committed to justice and equality for years. Growing up in Chattanooga, I had the opportunity to attend camps through Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV), an organization whose goal is to allow children from different countries and backgrounds to interact with each other as a means of fostering peace. I wrote my law school entrance essay on justice and equality—my vision is that people will be treated a certain way based on who they are and what they do, instead of their race, sex, color, etc.
Q. Why are you passionate about what you do?
A. I absolutely love being a civil rights attorney. It has both challenges and rewards. I love being able to think critically about the facts in my case and put together a persuasive and hopefully winning brief. I enjoy preparing for important depositions and cross-examining difficult witnesses. I also like holding companies accountable when they have discriminated against someone.
Q. If you could offer one piece of advice to current GPS students, what would it be?
A. Don’t let anyone else define what it means for you to be successful. Stay true to yourself and your core beliefs. When I first started practicing law, I would receive phone calls from recruiters seeking to place me in certain positions and offering lucrative compensation packages. I remember thanking one recruiter and telling him that I was flattered—but not interested. The position did not align with why I went to law school and what I wanted to do with my law degree. To me, success is being true to yourself.
Q. Do you stay in touch with your classmates? What impact have they had on your life?
A. Yes, I stay in touch with some of my classmates. They have had a positive impact on my life and are successful in their own ways. I feel like my class (Class of ’90) had such an amazing group of women—that even if I didn’t talk to them for years, I could reach out to them and catch up with them. In fact, I have done that, and it has been nice hearing about their careers and families.
Q. Can you point to anything that GPS did to prepare you for your future?
A. At GPS, I learned time-management skills, goal setting, writing skills, and public-speaking skills. I loved the Life Skills class with Ms. Snodgrass and still have and refer to my textbook. In this class, we learned how to set goals and to plan for the life we wanted to live. I loved my amazing English teachers as well (in particular, Ms. Barker, Ms. Chambliss, Ms. Ratliff, Ms. Speakman). And because I ran cross country, played basketball, and ran track, my coaches, like Coach Forde, were instrumental in teaching me how to set goals and to be disciplined enough to achieve them.
Q. What is your proudest accomplishment thus far?
A. Perhaps publishing my book, More Justice, More Peace: The Black Person’s Guide to the Legal System, Chicago Review Press.
I am also proud of my cross-examination of an expert witness in EEOC v. Hamilton Pointe, a class race discrimination case, and our resolution in EEOC v. PAM Trucking, a nationwide disability discrimination case.
Q. Are there any experiences or memories from your time at GPS that really stand out?
A. It was special being part of the 1986 varsity cross-country team. If I recall correctly, it was the first time we were runners-up at the State Championship meet. Our team tried hard and left it all on the course, so to speak. Even though we did not win, we did our best—and that is what matters. In my law practice, I can only do my best. Sometimes I might get a bad jury, or a bad witness, or something else beyond my control might happen. I try not to dwell on what I can’t control and instead focus on what I can control. I want to be able to say I left it all on the course, so to speak, just like we did when we ran that cross-country meet back in 1986.