Campbell grew up in Ensley and graduated from St Anthony Elementary School and Ensley High School. After high school he attended St Bernard College in Cullman, but left to enlist in the Navy during World War II.
Campbell served on the U. S. S. Cabot aircraft carrier during the war, then attended college at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, where he also worked as an athletic trainer. In 1947 he returned to Birmingham to begin working for the News.
From 1949 to January 1950 he worked for the Dothan Eagle. While in Dothan he met and married Mynette Barnhill. He returned to the News where he remained for the rest of his career. During his time there he served as Bessemer editor, metro editor, assistant city editor and makeup editor.
Campbell retired in 1993 and died in 2008. He was survived by his wife, a son, two daughters and six grandchildren. His funeral mass was held at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church and he is interred at Elmwood Cemetery.
- Spencer, Thomas (April 14, 2008) "Former Birmingham News editor Joseph N. Campbell dies at 88." Birmingham News
- "Joseph N. Campbell" obituary (April 14, 2008) Birmingham News