Campbell was born December 7, 1946 in Raleigh. He was the first child of Ralph and June Campbell, a couple who fought for civil rights in North Carolina.
Their fight for equality often included their children who were among the first to desegregate Raleigh's city schools.
His parent's work paved the way for their son to become the first African American statewide elected official in North Carolina.
Campbell graduated from Saint Augustine's College with a degree in business administration and he served in the Army Reserve from 1971 to 1977.
It was about that time that Campbell took a job as a field auditor for the North Carolina Department of Revenue.
And, in 1985 he was elected to the Raleigh City Council. It was the first of four terms and was mayor pro tem during his final two years.
"Ralph Campbell, Jr., was a great friend to the City of Raleigh and served as our ambassador to our Sister City Compiegne," Mayor Charles Meeker said. "Ralph also worked on many public improvements including the renovation of Murphey School for senior housing. Raleigh is honored to have had Ralph be a life-long citizen and statesman. We will miss his contributions and humor greatly."
Campbell went to work for the state health benefits office in 1986 as an auditor and that was followed by several years at the state department of insurance.
Campbell's auditing and political careers merged in 1992 when he was elected state auditor.
"He lived his life the right way. He was an outstanding public servant, serving on the Raleigh City Council and then becoming, of course, the first African-American elected to a statewide constitutional office," Campbell's brother Bill told ABC11 on Wednesday.
Campbell was reelected in 1996 and 2000, but was narrowly defeated by republican Les Merrit in 2004.
After leaving public office, Campbell maintained his ties to the Democratic Party by serving as the treasurer for the state party.
Governor Beverly Perdue said Wednesday he lived his life in service to North Carolina.
"He believed in the fundamental promise of America: Regardless of who we are or where we come from, we share the same hopes and should enjoy the same possibilities. He worked hard to erase economic disparity and establish social justice. I will always remember his favorite quote, reminding us to make the most of every moment: 'Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift,'" said Perdue in a statement.
Campbel will lie in state at the Capitol rotunda from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 14.
A memorial service will then be held in the Fletcher Opera Theater of the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts. The service will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Mr. Campbell's funeral service will be held at noon on Saturday, Jan. 15 at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, 813 Darby St. Interment will be at Carolina Biblical Gardens, 1530 Creech Road, Garner.