2024ObituariesJohn Bliss Camp

January 24, 2024by SealeUser14

John Bliss Camp, the founding Director of the O’Brien House addiction recovery center and an active member in the recovery community for more than a half a century, passed awaypeacefully on Thursday, January 18th at the age of 88. His incredible mind was active and sharp until the very end, but his body could no longer prevail against the ravages of age and illness. He was comforted and blessed by the presence of family and friends throughout his last days and we are grateful for the loving care provided by the staff at The Carpenter House of St. Joseph Hospice in Baton Rouge.

John was a devoted friend to many. His wry sense of humor was injected into every single conversation and encounter. Often, we were rolling our eyes but laughing just the same. And yet, he had a big heart and was always willing to help others in need. Especially the still suffering alcoholic. John made himself available to serve by sharing his experience, strength and hope.  

Born in Nashville, Tennessee on November 2, 1935, John grew up in Mobile and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and graduated from Tuscaloosa High School.  John entered the University of Alabama at the age of 16 and was expelled by the age of 17! Having chosen to party instead of studying, he says that he was kicked out for failing every subject but ROTC.

In 1952, John married his high school sweetheart, Glenda Adams, and enlisted in the Air Force shortly after the beginning of the Korean War.  The Air Force moved them to Californiaand, in a few short years, they had 4 children together. After his Honorable Discharge, he attended Broadcasting school with hopes of becoming a DJ on a radio station.

One day, a small radio station in Northern California hired him to clean up and do odd jobs and, in the process, he learned reporting by “hands-on” experience. He became obsessed with covering the news – including some on-the-scene stories froman airplane while looking for Big Foot in northern California.  He even learned to fly a small aircraft in exchange for writing commercials for the owner.

His long career in journalism truly began when he moved his family to Louisiana in 1968 to work for a Baton Rouge radio station. It was a nebulous start and he soon was fired for going ‘on the air’ drunk. However, as fate would have it, John’s career saw rapid growth after he sobered up in February of 1971.  Patricia Byrd, his second wife, rescued him from a New Orleans French Quarter gutter and got him to go to an AAmeeting. This was a pivotal event in his transition to soberliving. After barely 6 months of sobriety, John was asked to assemble some folks who could help with the vision of starting a recovery center in Baton Rouge. On August 14, 1971, the first meeting of the new Board of Directors for the proposed O’Brian House was held. John was the first Chairman of the Board. The rest, as they say, is history! John and OBH celebrate 53 years of association this year.

Now motivated and sober, John would rather quickly become a nationally recognized investigational reporter for local radio, TV and network news teams. His work has been the subject of books, magazine articles, newspaper stories and the grumblings of many nefarious characters throughout the country.  This cliché fit him well: You know it’s going to be a bad day if your morning starts with John Camp knocking on your door!  Jimmy Swaggert even called him a “Derelict Gunslinger” which was the impetus for the title of John’s future book.

In 1972, after working ten years as a radio reporter, News Director and talk show host, he became a full-time investigative reporter in Baton Rouge at WJBO AM. His exposé about government corruption earned him the 1973 Radio Television News Directors International Award for Investigative Reporting and several national journalism prizes.  His disclosures led to the convictions of a state official and several associates.

John’s Baton Rouge reporting opened doors at major marketshare television stations and network newsrooms. He left Baton Rouge for Miami, FL, and spent three years there producing prize-winning shows, including a daring exposé of Meyer Lansky – infamous crime boss. John would go on to win his first 2 Peabody Awards there. After Miami, he was hired to start the nation’s first multi-member local television investigative unit in Boston.

He returned to Baton Rouge in 1982 as an investigative reporter and documentary producer for WBRZ-TV. His stories during the next seven years helped earn the station a reputation as one of the nation’s top TV News organizations, winning 2 more Peabody Awards for his amazing work: “Give Me That Big Time Religion” in 1983 and “TheBest Insurance Commissioner Money Can Buy” in 1988. Credit is due to all who had a part including, news director John Spain, executive producer Bob Courtney and photographer/editor Sailor Jackson.

John left WBRZ in 1989 for Cable News Network (CNN), where he was the first person hired for a thirty-member investigative reporting unit created by the network to go after big stories. John worked for CNN for 10 award-winning years and retired as Senior Investigative Correspondent.

Finally, from 2001 through 2004, he produced and narrated documentaries dealing with school desegregation and asbestos litigation for Public Broadcasting and later did some free-lance reporting for WRKF.

During his 40-year career as an investigative reporter, John won many of journalism’s most prestigious awards: George Foster Peabody Medallion (4), Alfred I DuPont (3), National Headliner (3 Investigative Reporters and Editions (IRE) (3), Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists (2), Scripps-Howard (4), Associated Press Journalist of the Year (1), American Bar Association Silver Gavel (2) and various state and regional awards. He also had two Emmy nominations.

John credits much of his professional success to the spiritual principles that he learned working a 12-step program as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. It was while he was working this program that he met his future wife, AnnetteWomack.  They married December 18, 1986 and he spent the rest of his life with her.

His work with people in the program of Alcoholics Anonymousand his support of and devotion to The O’Brien House Recovery Center is nothing short of legendary. His legacy in addiction recovery through these programs will never be forgotten.

John’s life and his many adventures are depicted in his autobiographical book, Odyssey of a Derelict Gun Slinger. It’s a great read and is still available on Amazon.

John is preceded in death by parents, William E. and Marie Camp; his son, James Michael Camp; granddaughters, Lesli Brewer-Westmoreland, Candice Aylor and Elizabeth Parker; andhis first wife, Glenda Gerald. John is survived by his wife of 37 years Annette Giles Camp, his daughters Patti Galey (Matt), Terri Brewer (Jim) and Sherri Edmonds, his sons, John Robert Camp, Richard Camp (Stephanie) and Annette’s children, Donna Smith, Dawn Womack, and Kenny Womack (whom he considered his own children); and his second wife, Patricia Byrd. He also leaves 23 grandchildren and a host of great grandchildren and friends.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in John’s memory to the O’Brien House c/o the John Camp Great Room Renovation Fund https://www.obrienhouse.org/giving-page-1

Visitation will be Friday, February 2, at First Presbyterian Church of Baton Rouge starting at 10:00 AM and the service will follow at 11:00 AM.

Interment will be a private event, with Military Honors, at Louisiana National Cemetery in Zachary, LA at 1:00 PM.




  • Beckie McInerney

    February 12, 2024 at 4:25 am

    I only met John Camp briefly on a visit to Baton Rouge with his daughter Sherri..but through my friendship with his three fun loving daughters & some FB contact I grew to know about him & feel honored to have known him…since my Dad was involved with radio & TV it made Johns life more interesting to me..since being off FB for several months I’m sorry to not know John had been ill..and was surprised to hear of his passing…I did not know all his family.. but want to say the ones I met..you have to be the greatest of his accomplishments..You have so many reasons to be proud of him and he of you..may you cherish your wonderful memories..my love, prayers, and sympathy are with you Annette, Sherri, Patti & Matt, Terri & Jim, & your families.


  • Wade Riddick

    February 1, 2024 at 11:25 pm

    I spent the summer of 1990 interning at CNN for John Camp and the rest of the I-team in the old Omni Hotel. David Duke was running for U.S. Senate and CNN was about to burst on the scene with its unique and timely Gulf War coverage. Art Harris was there with Ken Shippman, Marty Kuehn(sp?) – a truly gifted vulgarian – and a correspondingly soft-spoken guy named Bill – whose last name escapes me.

    Ken was the only one still at the company, the last time I checked a few years back. Art Harris was a fellow reporter who covered Jimmy Swaggart for Penthouse and moved on to the Washington Post – two publications whose subjects have remarkably similar cravings for publicity and ethical profiles to match. Art and John bonded over their Swaggart war stories. Who doesn’t love the old-fashioned story of an honest minister driving the prostitutes out of town – one by one and in his own car to local hotels? (Swaggart, ironically, once lived literally two doors down from me and across the street; you knew a news crew was dropping by when he slung a tarp over the backyard pool and swapped out the caddy in the driveway for a budget jalopy).

    I asked John Camp why he chose me, an English major, and Martha Daas, a freshly-minted Spanish major, for interns when he clearly had the pick of the litter coming out of J schools across the country.

    “You were the only two without journalism degrees,” he explained in typical blunt fashion. “I can teach any idiot to point a camera. I can’t teach them to think.”

    I expressed my gratitude by applying my programming skills to his old, boxy black and white Macintosh. One hot Atlanta summer morning, he went into his office, booted up and Jimmy Swaggart cried out, “I have sinned against you!” John tumbled out of his office baffled and laughing.

    I learned other important job skills at CNN. Like when the CEO of a medical waste incinerator company wouldn’t appear on camera for an interview and we were in danger of being stuck with another “guilty building” story.

    John said to the executive, “Well, I completely understand. We just wanted to give you the opportunity to appear on air in person to answer questions because the only other picture we have of you is your Interpol mugshot, but we’re happy to run with that.”

    John flew up to Canada with a camera crew right after that. For some reason, the CEO changed his mind.

    Word about John was getting around and subjects were getting harder and harder to pin down on camera for questioning. In TV when there’s no picture, there’s no story – a lesson far too many white collar criminals have learned today.

    CNN eventually did put my prodigious computer skills to better use, though not exactly the way I expected.

    John and Art shared an interest in revivalism cons and Art started following an “entrepreneur” in Christian broadcasting – Paul Crouch – who was buying up low-power UHF stations across the country and rolling them into his Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), kind of the televangelist equivalent of Ted Turner, though he lacked the personal charisma of Jimmy Swaggart. We started recording months of TBN satellite feeds, looking for juicy tidbits but Art first needed it cataloged and indexed, which meant hours of somebody watching and typing in an editing bay.

    The office had just gotten their brand-spanking-new Apple “portable” and they were chomping at the bit to try it out. They handed it to Martha Daas – half my size – who promptly plunged at the floor and had to grab it with both hands to keep it from shattering a million pieces. Poor Martha limped around with that sucker like she’d been shot in the leg until I took the “luggable” computer off her hands and started doing curls with it.

    Fresh out of college swimming, I said, “What are you complaining about? This can’t be more than twenty, twenty-five pounds? Easy.”


    That’s how I spent a summer knee deep in redneck conspiracy theory porn under a modern satellite-fed UHF revival tent. The content was crazier than Weird Al and a lot less fun. A time or two on the way to the editing bay, I nearly got run down by the leggy former Dallas judge Catherine Crier late to set, but that was about the most thrilling the job got.

    So at CNN I learned I had computer skills I never realized. Thanks, LSU weight room!

    That editing bay education familiarized me with the U.N.’s black helicopter squads, thermonuclear warhead disarmament conspiracies, hard money gold bugs, welfare queens and faith healers (“Binny Hinn’s not that bad a guy,” John would always say). The experience came in handy when I studied revivalism in American politics at graduate school at UT-Austin – especially when the David Koresh standoff unfolded up the interstate in Waco.

    This was all before the X-files and the Oklahoma City bombing. Needless to say, after watching a summer of TBN paranoia, the emergence of Q-Anon and chemtrails never came as a shock to me. If there’s a dominant style in our electronic life today, it’s not broadcast news reporting’s quest for the truth or even pulpit homilies but professional wrestling fantasy – sloppy, cartoonish and filled with all-too-real carnage.

    There’s plenty of pain in the world and a high demand for relief worthy of our faith. People need those burdens lifted, but John knew electronic spectacle is no more the cathartic vehicle for genuine miracles than alcohol. The zipping network of electrons has gone digital but it still carries our words around faster than trust and respect, shorn of human presence. We don’t mean too much to each other when our lives are so remote and abstract. In that middle twilight zone, truth is easily lost and confidence is easier to violate – and that’s what kept John and everybody else going, whether it was scoundrels cutting corners in unsexy industries like insurance and medical waste disposal or old time charitable giving poured in a newfangled bottle.

    I was paid by CNN exactly twice. A medical waste Fourth of July expedition per diem was actually the second paycheck I managed to finagle out of CNN. (Nothing like chasing down eighteen wheelers on South Carolina backroads in a rental with a hand-held camera.) I got the first paycheck before my summer internship when John hired me for some grip and cabling work. He came back into Baton Rouge to shoot a national piece on fraud, Champion Insurance and its owners, the Eichers (who, I’m told, after jail went on to bigger, better things in the charter school movement – like one of Jim Brown’s kids).

    I was surprised Champion’s old offices hadn’t yet been liquidated. I was also surprised how close they were to my home, near Sigmund’s old deli in the now-defunct Florida Blvd. strip mall. The part of the day sticking in my mind the most is the close up shot of a microwave oven still filled with magnetic tapes and disks where the company’s true accounting went to die.

    My father, Winston Riddick, and John Camp came into one another’s orbit around about the 1987 campaign when they both started getting mysterious notes slipped under their doors about Champion Insurance and newly elected Insurance Commissioner Doug Green. To make a multiyear story short, at first everyone believed Doug Green’s anticorruption campaign against the incumbent Insurance Commissioner, Sherman Bernard, because everybody knew the scandals around Bernard. And Green had slick ads everywhere.

    They didn’t know the Eichers were funneling millions illegally into Green’s campaign and he’d be much worse. After the long, hard slog to unravel the mystery, pingponging between WBRZ specials on campaign funds and technical courtroom procedures about insolvency, my father would prosecute them all successfully from the A.G.’s office. Green would get a 25 year prison sentence, the Eichers would go to jail with him and the $180 million embezzled into the Grand Caymans would be returned.

    But not before a tremendous number of poor motorists lost their cars – and then jobs – because mechanics stopped taking their insurance once Champion stopped paying claims and feigned bankruptcy to cover up its embezzlement.

    The con rolls on.

    The last time I visited with John in the hospital, the Baton Rouge Advocate ran a story about how – in just the last year -premiums amounting to the size three Champions had been drained out of Louisiana property insurers into their affiliates, leaving them bankrupt. Only now we don’t prosecute it.

    The echoes of economic implosion across Louisiana today aren’t just similar, they’re louder and they stretch across America. Property insurers are going bust in epic proportions and leaving homeowners in the lurch after storms, stiffing them on claims. Fat transfers to their company affiliates enrich executives and investors but “somehow” deplete the reserves, throwing claims onto LIGA, the public guarantee fund – only nobody bothers prosecuting the bankruptcy-for-profit crimes anymore. You can measure the cost in U-hauls because the dog’s tired of the ticks and the state is hollowing out.

    Addiction to drugs and alcohol involves their own kind of con job, intoxicating feel-good chemicals that undermine your free will and pump up your ego. You love them until you realize the damage they’re doing to you and then you have a hard time letting go, even admitting you were fooled. With good journalism dying today, not a lot of people understand how spotting that common betrayal of trust underlies both good reporting on corruption and recovery from intoxication. John understood the connection personally.

    You’ll hear plenty of tributes about how John helped alcoholics and other addicts when he helped found the O’Brien House, but I thought I’d tell you about how my education in fraud saved my life from a different toxin – mercury.

    One day, sitting in a doctor’s office, I thought back to my father’s adventures with John Camp and Champion Insurance, to the Eichers and those hitmen they hired to kill my father and Judge Keogh. The whole sordid affair saved my life, strangely enough.

    I had a million strange and dire symptoms and the doctor’s accounting looked peculiar; I thought the books might be cooked. So, understanding a bit of statistics from graduate school, I asked my physician – one of six I had scrambling for answers – what the error rate was on each of the test results.

    He promptly turned around and attacked me as mentally ill, then recommended a psychiatrist. (Apparently that’s what studying math in graduate school does to you.)

    Most people would have been concerned, but I actually relaxed. I thought, oh, I’m not the problem; this doctor’s a sociopath. He’s blaming me for his incompetence. I learned about these guys from my Dad and John Camp.

    I realized this problem might actually be easy to fix. I went home, typed up my symptoms in the old Excite search engine and stumbled on a likely diagnosis in about five minutes: Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. So far, I had every symptom except the heart failure, coma and, yeah, death. The next doctor I saw heard, “Hashimoto’s,” disappeared back down the hall for quite a while. I got concerned, peeked out the door, caught her thumbing through a book until her jaw suddenly dropped.

    Not the reaction you want to see in your physician.

    She came back in and said, politely, “I made an appointment for you with an endocrinologist.”

    “I don’t think I can wait several more weeks-”

    “He’ll see you in fifteen minutes.”


    My crisis turned out to be something other than Hashimoto’s, but that’s another long story involving childhood arthritis from second-hand smoke and cracked dental fillings. In the end, I didn’t start getting better until I fired all the doctors and started from scratch.

    The experts always know less than they appear and the truth is often easier to figure out than you think, though precious time and effort are required. Between those two is where our confidence gets betrayed. Understanding that dynamic made John Camp a good reporter and a role model for all of us.

    That keen sense of irony is a reporter’s most valuable tool. John never lost his sense of humor because he depended on it to make his living.

    You can’t teach that, but you can nurture it. Irony is a subconscious instinct tipping us off that something’s out of place, doesn’t quite fit. It’s a mirror on that one dangling thread that leads to the truth when it’s tugged on with enough force. And that reflection keeps you from getting bigger than your britches. John Camp knew these are the skills that save our lives and make life worth living.

    There are a thousand important little stories like Champion and TBN percolating around the country and less and less spotlight to shine on them with each passing day. As corporate profit motives continue to gut news payrolls – now with a digital twist – the spotlight on local politicians dims letting more swamp creatures rise to national prominence.

    Jimmy Swaggart, Doug Green, David Duke, the Eichers. As John Camp would tell you, Louisiana set the standard in swamp creatures.

    Well, we are all Louisiana now.

    Who would have thought the best way to understand America’s future was to understand the con men of Louisiana’s past?

    You don’t have to be an expert. You just have to care and do the work. Somewhere along the line, we forgot that simple lesson. We stopped investing in it at the institutional level.

    Now the insurance swindles and banking crimes and old-time revival shakedowns that used to embarrass us have all gone national. Shame itself seems to have died.

    With opiate and alcohol addiction at record levels, the world has never needed the O’Brien House more, but that’s just half of John Camp’s legacy. Pay attention. That diligent skepticism could save your life.

    It saved mine, as I can testify, brother.


  • Mark Feldstein

    January 29, 2024 at 9:27 pm

    I worked with John at CNN. He was my mentor and friend. I will always be grateful for his friendship, starting in 1980. I was a nobody but he took me under his wing when others ignored or discouraged me. He wowed me with stories of crooks he exposed, and now as a professor I teach my students about him. He was always kind and decent, with a maturity borne out of his own struggles in life that gave him a wisdom that I could only fully appreciate years later. What John accomplished most in life was much more than celebrity or journalism awards–it was rising beyond his hardscrabble beginnings without losing sight of where he came from, using his talents to take on bullies and crooks and fight for the little guy. And doing so with courage, cunning, honesty, humility, and a wickedly irreverent sense of humor. I am so thankful for everything John did and everything he was. I’m sure he’s now busy in Heaven ferreting out whatever bad guys accidentally slipped in, making sure they get a ticket south where they belong.


    • Matt Galey

      February 2, 2024 at 4:41 am

      What a wonderful remembrance Mark. He thought very highly of you as well. He told me about you the week before he passed… His mind was sharp as a tack until the end.

      I wish I could have recorded those conversations!

      Thanks for the memories.
      Blessings to you and yours.


    • Bill Sherman

      February 2, 2024 at 7:07 pm

      Great synopsis of John, relished the last line – lol.


    • Matt Galey

      February 3, 2024 at 12:44 am

      Mark, thank you for your thoughtful comments. John spoke highly of you, and mentioned you specifically several times in his last days. Your phone call was so uplifting to him and couldn’t have come at a better time. He was so weak but still sharp as a tack.

      All the best to you and make sure you teach your students to seek out and report news fearlessly and without bias.


    • Matt Galey

      February 4, 2024 at 9:39 pm

      Thank you Mark! John spoke of you often over the last week of his life. He thought very highly of you.
      The family appreciates your kind remembrance and comments. Your words are very thoughtful.

      Please encourage your students to be bold in their approach to journalism and to search hard for the truth! Hopefully, they will actually report their stories, rather than editorialize as so many do.

      I know that John will be smiling down on your efforts!

      Matt Galey


  • Lisa Simpson

    January 29, 2024 at 6:26 pm

    What a blessed life he lived! His dedication to addiction recovery and those affected is a true inspiration. I wish I had the opportunity to have met him. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you celebrate a life well lived, with wishes of peace and love as you heal from your loss.


  • Suzanne Jung

    January 28, 2024 at 7:06 pm

    Great memories of our parties/swimming at the Marlin Club. Wish I had more pictures of those days – The Jungs, Camps, Smiths, and the Browns. Great friendships were made! Rest in peace John. Hope I can find your book.


    • Matt & Patti Galey

      February 2, 2024 at 4:34 am

      It’s still available on Amazon! Thanks for sharing!


  • Terry Gomez

    January 26, 2024 at 6:33 pm

    As President of the Zachary Rotary Club several years ago, I invited John to come speak to our club. He did an excellent job and his presentation was real interesting. I bought his book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
    Kudos to you John Camp!!


  • Terry Burhans

    January 25, 2024 at 2:30 pm

    Brother John, you know it’s true when I remind you that you had one difficult to return kick-serve! Tennis? Anyone? TB


    • Matt Galey

      January 26, 2024 at 12:19 am

      Terry, he spoke fondly of you often. I wish I could have seen him play!


  • Sarah Graves

    January 25, 2024 at 12:02 am

    You were so loved and will be missed, Grandpa John. I so enjoyed the frequent visits the kids and I were able to have with you over the last few months. Will treasure the memories, the stories, your witty remarks, having to yell into your “good ear,” the laughter, the songs we sang & prayers we prayed, and your “One of a Kind” voice (made for broadcasting, no doubt)!!! Thankful to God for His faithfulness in taking you to your eternal home with Uncle Mike, Nina, Candice, and so many others. Until we meet again.

    Love Always,


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