A native of Lexington, Virginia, Edmund Campbell was born in 1899 on the Washington and Lee campus in the childhood home of his father, W&L dean and geology professor Henry Donald "Dean Harry" Campbell. Entering Washington and Lee at age 15, Ed Campbell graduated as the valedictorian of the 1918 class. He served briefly in the Army at the end of World War I. After receiving a master's degree in economics from Harvard, he went on to graduate first in the W&L law class of 1922.
Campbell practiced law in Arlington and Washington, where he was a founding partner of the firm of Jackson and Campbell. In the mid- and late 1950s, when Virginia adopted a policy of "massive resistance" to the Supreme Court decision mandating desegregation of public schools, Mr. Campbell and his wife, Elizabeth Pfohl Campbell, were instrumental in the formation of the Save Our Schools Committee which opposed the massive resistance movement. In 1958, Mr. Campbell persuaded federal courts to declare Virginia's massive resistance laws unconstitutional. In a lawsuit that reached the Supreme Court in 1962, Campbell argued that Arlington and Fairfax were illegally under represented in the Virginia legislature. The Virginia case, combined with seven others, brought about the high court's "one man, one vote" decision.
His work leading to the dismantling of massive resistance to school desegregation had a ripple effect throughout the South. Campbell died on December 7, 1995. In editorially noting his passing, the Washington Post stated: "In life as in court, Ed Campbell fought injustice with a passion, insisting that freedom be accorded citizens without regard to color or belief."