Francis Joseph Campbell, a leading educator for the blind in the United States and Great Britain, was born in Franklin County on October 9, 1832. A childhood accident left Campbell blind at the age of four. He attended regular schools until the age of twelve, when his parents enrolled him in the newly opened Tennessee School for the Blind at Nashville, where he excelled in the study of music, especially piano.
In 1850, while a senior at the school, Campbell was appointed teacher of music and interim superintendent. The education of the blind became his calling. Campbell left Tennessee in the mid-1850s to pursue his education in Massachusetts, where he met and married Mary Bond in 1856. The Campbells briefly returned to Tennessee but, because of their abolitionist views, soon left the state under duress. Campbell then taught music and physical education at the Perkins Institute in Boston.
In 1868 the Campbells traveled to Europe, where Frances studied music in Germany. His chance meeting with Dr. T. A. Armitage of London led to their creation of the Royal College for the Blind in London in the early 1870s. Campbell insisted that this college be equal in social, physical, and intellectual aspects to colleges for sighted people. Under his guidance the Royal College became a highly respected institution.
Two years after the death of his wife Mary in 1873, Campbell married Sophia Faulkner, a teacher at the Royal College. He became a naturalized subject of Great Britain, and in 1909 he was knighted by King Edward VII. Campbell retired in 1912, and Guy M. Campbell succeeded his father at the Royal College. Campbell returned to the United States after his retirement and died on June 30, 1914, leaving behind an international reputation as a musician and educator.