Georgetta Harriett Merritt was born on February 7, 1929 in Clinton, NC to Sadie Herring Merritt and William Edward Merritt. She was the oldest of two daughters born to them; a sister, Rena Ercelle, was born two years later.
A lifelong learner, Georgetta was fond of saying that she started school when she was two weeks old, accompanying her mother to the school where she taught. Georgetta’s brilliant mind enabled her to graduate high school by the age of 15. She went on to study at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC where she became a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Library Science in 1948. In that same year, Georgetta also earned a Bachelor’s degree in Library Science from North Carolina Central University. She earned a Master’s degree in Library Science from Syracuse University in 1956. Georgetta worked as a librarian at Arkansas AM&N, Texas Southern University, and at Morgan State College in Baltimore, Maryland.
While working at Morgan State, Georgetta learned that the young minister and activist, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was to address the Omega Psi Phi fraternity convention which was being held at the school in December 1956. Georgetta very much wanted to hear Dr. King, but needed an escort from a member of the fraternity in order to attend. She was peering through her opera glasses at the men who were assembling when she heard a voice ask her what she was looking for. “I’m looking for an Omega man to take me to see Dr. King,” she said. The man replied that he was an Omega man, introduced himself as Dr. Ulysses Campbell, and offered to take her. What began as a practical arrangement became a courtship, and the two were married in her hometown of Clinton, NC in December of 1958 before establishing their household in northern New Jersey.
With marriage came a new role, that of stepmother to her new husband’s daughter, Carole Ann. She loved Carole as fiercely as if she had been her own daughter. Georgetta and Ulysses welcomed their only child, Ulysses Edward, in 1963. Georgetta was an adoring mother and poured herself into raising her son.
Balancing her roles as mother and librarian, Georgetta earned a Doctorate in Education from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1978. Her doctoral dissertation, Extant Collections of Early Black Newspapers: A Research Guide to the Black Press 1880-1915, with an index to the Boston Globe, 1902-1904, was published in 1981 by the Whitston Publishing Company and remains in use as a reference book at libraries and educational institutions across the country.
Georgetta's love for her family was boundless and deep. She embraced her son’s wife, Jacqueline, immediately and reveled in being a grandmother to the couple’s two children, Ulysses and Alyssa. Despite divorcing her husband of 16 years, she maintained a close relationship with Carole and was honored to count Carole’s son, Sabai, as one of her grandchildren as well.
Her commitment to family was also reflected in the time and care she took in recording her family’s history. She conducted exhaustive research and amassed voluminous data which she was delighted to share with all family members. Her research has inspired others to continue her work.
After 50 years in library media in six states, with the last 34 years in New Jersey, Georgetta retired in 1997. Her career spanned all levels, from public children’s librarianship through college and graduate programs educating professional media specialists. The outpouring of love and support from colleagues and former students underscored what an impact she had had on those around her.
Georgetta was dedicated to community service. Among the many groups to which she contributed her time were The NJ Education Association, The American Society of Indexers, Town and Country Women Inc, League of Women Voters of Orange and East Orange, Urban League of Essex County, NJ Library Association, NAACP, The Leaguers Inc. and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Georgetta is survived by her sister Rena Ercelle Bancroft, niece Mattie Solice Grigsby, son Ulysses Edward Campbell, daughter-in-law Jacqueline Bryant Campbell, grandchildren Ulysses B and Alyssa Campbell, step daughter Carole Campbell Burnett, Sabai Rashad Burnett, numerous beloved nephews and cousins, and many treasured friends.