Campbell, Henry James (1813–89), benefactor of Campbell College, was probably born in Newtownards, Co. Down, second son among two sons and two daughters of Henry Campbell (d. 1814) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Michael Campbell of Ballyalton, Co. Down. He was apprenticed to a Belfast flax-spinning company, J. Boomer & Co. After working in Liverpool, England, he returned to Belfast, becoming a director in Gunning & Campbell, Belfast, a flax- and tow-spinning company. In 1859 he bought Mossley Mills, Co. Antrim, and founded the joint company Henry Campbell & Co. with his first cousin once removed, John Campbell (1819–1901). Under John's management and with capital provided by Henry, the mill flourished. Money was invested in new machinery and buildings, workers' conditions were improved, and the Mossley school was established (1868) for the mill workers' children, where night classes for adults were organised.
On his retirement Henry built a mansion, ‘Lorne’, at Craigavad, Co. Down. A benefactor during his life to the Belfast Royal Hospital and the Presbyterian Orphanage Society, he bequeathed approximately £200,000 for the founding of a hospital bearing his name, or a college (or both) in or near Belfast, which would provide a ‘superior liberal protestant education’. Although a presbyterian, he chose trustees from differing protestant churches to administer his will, which led to the opening (3 September 1894) of Campbell College at Belmont, Belfast. A bachelor, he died 23 January 1889 and was buried in Movilla cemetery, Newtownards, Co. Down.