James Philander "Phil" Campbell, Jr. was born April 9, 1917, in Athens, Clarke County. Campbell gained his passion for agriculture and farming from his father who was the first director of the Georgia Agricultural Extension Service and held the post for 25 years. After graduation from Athens High School in 1934, Campbell began his undergraduate work at the University of Georgia where he was a member of the Kappa Alpha Order and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture, Campbell married the former Elizabeth "Nan" McCreery, and the two would begin to grow to a family with six children. He was soon after commissioned in the United States Army Air Corps as a 1st Lieutenant; Campbell would serve as a pilot and bombardier instructor for the duration of World War II.
After the war, Campbell operated his farm in Oconee County where he was involved with everything from drying tobacco to growing cotton. While a farmer, he gained attention of state leadership. He ran successfully for the Georgia House of Representatives representing Oconee County and served on the House Agriculture Committee from 1949-1954.
Campbell was elected Commissioner of Agriculture in 1954 and served for 14 years before President Richard Nixon asked him to serve at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. During his time as Commissioner of Agriculture, Campbell supported the creation of the Atlanta State Farmers Market and worked closely with state leaders on multimillion-dollar projects for the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech. In Washington, Campbell served as Undersecretary to Secretary of Agriculture Clifford Hardin and Earl Butz during the administrations of President Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
Upon leaving Washington, Campbell served as an emeritus trustee on the UGA Foundation and president of the UGA Alumni Society. Commissioner Campbell was honored for his contributions to Georgia agriculture by being named to the Georgia Agricultural Hall of Fame on October 12, 1990. His induction into the Agriculture Hall of Fame is unique in that he and Phil Campbell Sr. became the first father/son honorees. Phil Campbell died on June 22, 1998 and is buried in the Watkinsville City Cemetery, Oconee County.