June 2020

21 Faces of Lowcountry Hospitality: Irvin & Emory Campbell

Author: Special to CH2 | Photographer: M.KAT Photography

Irvin & Emory Campbell
Gullah Tours

If there are two people keeping Hilton Head Island’s heritage and Gullah-Geechee culture alive through stories for future generations, it’s Irvin and Emory Campbell. Born and raised on a Hilton Head Island that’s barely recognizable to them now, these brothers have seen some changes over their 70-plus years. A guided tour aboard the Gullah Heritage Trails Tour Bus takes you through Gullah communities when the island’s landscape was only farmlands, trees, dirt roads, wildlife and natural waterways throughout and around the island. The distinctive Gullah language, traditional foods and recipes, music, religion, social structure and folktales are woven into an interactive educational and entertaining experience hosted by Emory, Irvin, or one of their expert guides. They’ll even share which restaurants you should visit to experience authentic Gullah cuisine.

How long have you lived here and what do you love most about living here?
Emory Campbell: I’ve lived here my whole life, 78 years. I like it because it’s home. This island is just extraordinarily beautiful.

Favorite annual event or festival?
Irvin Campbell: Gullah Celebration is my favorite. It celebrates the culture, the customs and the arts—all of our traditions and cultural aspects of Gullah.

What is the most frequently asked question you get from our visitors?
Irvin: Where do we get some Gullah food? We send them to Hudson’s, Ruby Lee’s, Skull Creek Boathouse and Old Oyster Factory. Sometimes, if they are up for a drive, we’ll send them all the way to Gullah Grub on St. Helena.

If you could advise our visitors to do just one thing while they were here, what would it be?
Irvin: Take the Gullah Heritage Trail Tours.
Emory: That’s a wonderful answer.

Tell us something the average person vacationing on Hilton Head Island doesn’t know.
Emory: I think the average visitor to Hilton Head Island doesn’t know that once upon a time there was no bridge, and we were all pretty isolated. The bridge was built in 1956.

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