From TEDxGreenville Planning Team member and former Curator Marc Bolick, an introduction to Dr. Billy Campbell, one of our speakers at this year’s March 22 TEDxGreenville conference.
My good friend of many years and big TEDxGreenville fan, Deborah Crouch, nominated Dr. Billy Campbell to speak this year. So, I just had to make the trip with her to Westminster, SC, to meet him and hear about his Idea Worth Spreading.
I know Westminster as the small, corner-of-the-state town that I’ve been passing through my whole life on the way to our family mountain cabin in NC. So, I was really interested to stop there for once and meet Billy at his medical practice. As we walked from his office to a restaurant on this railroad town’s Main Street, our conversation began to transform my perception of Billy from small town doctor, to a worldly visionary with deep knowledge in a subject that few of us ever contemplate in a rational way.
After the three of us ate a nice meal, we jumped in our cars and drove a short 3 miles out of town, finally turning onto a small rural road. I immediately sensed the excitement of diving deep into a place of history, a place where every kid caries a pocket knife, and where having a few vehicles in various states of repair in the front yard is a symbol of membership. This is the red mud foothills that the Cherokee roamed, a place of mountain mist and spiritual connections.
We pulled into the Ramsey Creek Preserve and parked next to an old home with a few out buildings. Billy showed us the old barn that is being restored for use as a place for families and ceremonies. Then we walked a short distance down a dirt drive to a wonderful meadow opening where a quaint old chapel stood. The building was moved here from a few miles away where it served many years as a schoolhouse, and it has been wonderfully restored and converted into a place of celebration and ceremony. People hold marriages, baptisms and memorial services here.
It is in this wonderful setting that Billy and his wife Kimberley have designed an amazing ecosystem that is, literally, cradle to grave. With the help of Upstate Forever they have permanently protected 37 acres of wild lands as a natural preserve, where their goal of reconnecting people with the land takes many forms. The most prominent way this connection is made is by using exclusively natural burial techniques: no embalming, no burial vaults and only biodegradable caskets or shrouds. And, since Ramsey Creek lies on former farmland where cattle and crops depleted the land, each burial serves to replenish the soil and restore the organic nutrients needed for the revival of the natural habitat.
Billy has an amazing story to tell attendees of TEDxGreenville. As we hiked through the Ramsey Creek woods I strained to take in his deep knowledge of ecology, regulations, business, medicine, history and much about the international green burial movement. He is a passionate advocate for a different way of designing the end of our physical bodies, one that combines a sustainable economic model with conservation principles and a beautiful reconnecting of people with the earth. I can’t wait to hear his TEDx talk!