Oral history interview with Bruce Compton, 2020


Compton, Bruce (Interviewee)
Werner-Thomas, Holly (Interviewer)
Oral history interview with Bruce Compton, 2020
In this interview, Bruce Compton describes his life history and his family's experiences with gun violence. Compton begins the interview by describing his family history. Some topics include his youth in Philadelphia, his Catholic upbringing, his parents' work, and his grandfather's career as a big band trombonist. The majority of the interview is dedicated to Compton's nephew David, who was killed in 2013. David was the adopted son of Compton's brother William, and Compton describes David's personality, energy, interests, education, work in engineering, and life trajectory. He describes the events of the night in 2013 when David was killed by James Stuart, a high school friend and off-duty police officer for the Deptford Police Department. Compton describes how David brought an inebriated Stuart home from the bar, how Stuart shot him, and how Stuart contacted police colleagues to help him cover up the shooting instead of contacting paramedics. The police attempted to claim it was a suicide. Compton describes the ensuing trials, first where Stuart was found guilty of murder and sentenced to thirty years, but later was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to seven years. He also discusses how the family was impacted by the killing, the trials, and media attention. He describes the decision of the family to remove life support, as David was in a vegetative state. Compton analyzes his historical opinions on guns, the influence of his father's opinions on guns, and the ways that the trials changed his opinions on guns and the police
Collection Name
Forty Percent oral history collection on gun violence in America
Violent crimes--United States; Trials (Murder); Murder victims' families; Police corruption; Police; Psychic trauma--Social aspects; Deptford (N.J.) History; Compton, Bruce
oral histories
Physical Description
39 pages
Note (Biographical)
Bruce Compton was born in 1957 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His family was close-knit, devoutly Catholic, and politically centrist. His father worked in weapons development for the Department of Defense, but did not believe in keeping weapons in the home. His mother had emigrated from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and worked as a librarian for the Department of the Navy before having children. Compton graduated from La Salle University in 1979, having studied history, philosophy, and archives. He interned at the Philadelphia City Archives. Around this time, he met his wife, a rare book librarian at the Library Company of Philadelphia. In the late 1980s, Compton was hired as a consultant to process the records of the Pew Charitable Trust. After eighteen months as a contractor, Compton was hired to a permanent, full-time position. He worked at the Pew Charitable Trust for twenty-eight years, ultimately leading an archives and library staff of six. When he retired in 2020, he was living in the Pine Barrens in New Jersey
Interviewed by Holly Werner-Thomas on March 9, 2020
Note (Provenance)
Holly Werner-Thomas, Gift 2023
Library Location
Columbia Center for Oral History, Columbia University
Browse Location’s Digital Content
Catalog Record
Also In
Oral History Archives at Columbia
Persistent URL
Related URLs
Available digital content for this interview.