In response to “Remembering Glen Campbell” published on Aug. 17, 2017.
Your tribute to Glen Campbell stressed not only the amazing accomplishments of Campbell as a diverse performer, but also how he bravely went public with his battle with Alzheimer’s in order to bring attention to this terrible disease and help others in the process.
Glen Campbell was a pioneer in the rights of people with disabilities long before his courageous public battle with Alzheimer’s. The stuttering community credits Campbell with creating a “Rosa Parks moment” when country music legend Mel Tillis, then an accomplished songwriter who would soon find immense success as a performer, was a cast member for a season on “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” which ran on CBS from 1968-72. Tillis, a person who stutters, would have many speaking lines in his duties on the show, and would stutter at times. In his 1984 book “Stutterin’ Boy: The Autobiography of Mel Tillis,” Tillis stated that, after one show, a woman who claimed to be a loyal viewer wrote to Campbell and told him that having Tillis on the show was a bad example to young people because of his stuttering. Campbell was irate when the producers gave him the letter. He addressed the letter on the next show and vehemently supported his hiring of Tillis to be a regular on the show. Campbell also stressed the importance of people with handicaps not being excluded from the entertainment business.
To have a famous entertainer with a top-rated show like Glenn Campbell refute a fan’s letter on the air in a national forum and show support for hiring a person who stutters was absolutely monumental 46 years ago. Tillis would go on to inspire children who stutter all over the world through his high-profile philanthropic work with The Stuttering Foundation as the spokesman and honorary chair of the international nonprofit.
The overwhelming multitude of hits Glenn Campbell had both as a session musician and solo performer will surely stand the test of time. The legacy of the road he paved to help people with Alzheimer’s, people who stutter, people with handicaps and people with economic hardships will no doubt top the charts for years to come.