Ben Nighthorse Campbell
|Chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee|
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2005
|Preceded by||Daniel Inouye|
|Succeeded by||John McCain|
January 3, 2001 – June 6, 2001
|Preceded by||John McCain|
|Succeeded by||Daniel Inouye|
|United States Senator|
January 3, 1993 – January 3, 2005
|Preceded by||Tim Wirth|
|Succeeded by||Ken Salazar|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Colorado's 3rd district
January 3, 1987 – January 3, 1993
|Preceded by||Michael Strang|
|Succeeded by||Scott McInnis|
|Member of the Colorado House of Representatives|
from the 59th district
January 1983 – January 1987
|Preceded by||Robert E DeNier|
|Succeeded by||Jim E. Dyer|
Benny Marshall Campbell
April 13, 1933
Auburn, California, U.S.
|Political party||Republican (1995–present)|
|Democratic (before 1995)|
|Education||San Jose State University (BA)|
|Branch/service||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1951–1953|
|Rank||Airman First Class E-4|
|Awards|| Korean Service Medal|
Ben Nighthorse Campbell (born April 13, 1933) is an American Cheyenne politician who represented Colorado's 3rd congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 1987 to 1993 and was a United States Senator from Colorado from 1993 to 2005. He serves as one of 44 members of the Council of Chiefs of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Tribe. During his time in office, he was the only Native American serving in Congress. He was the last Native American elected to the U.S. Senate until the 2022 election of Cherokee Markwayne Mullin.
Originally a member of the Democratic Party, Campbell switched to the Republican Party on March 3, 1995. Reelected to the Senate in 1998, Campbell announced in March 2004 that he would not run for a third term. His seat was won by Democrat Ken Salazar in the November 2004 election. Campbell later expressed interest in running for governor of Colorado in 2006, but on January 4, 2006, announced that he would not enter the race. He later became a lobbyist for the law and lobbying firm Holland & Knight and afterward co-founded his own lobbying firm, Ben Nighthorse Consultants.
Campbell was born Benny Campbell in Auburn, California. His mother, Mary Vierra (Vieira), was a Portuguese immigrant who had come with her mother to the U.S. at age six through Ellis Island. According to Campbell, his maternal grandfather had entered the U.S. some time before. The Vierra family settled in the large Portuguese community near Sacramento. When Mary Vierra contracted tuberculosis in her youth, she was forced to convalesce at a nearby hospital, often for months at a time during treatment. It was there that she met an American Indian patient, Albert Campbell, who was at the hospital for alcoholism treatment. Albert Campbell was of predominantly Northern Cheyenne descent but, according to Campbell biographer Herman Viola, spent much of his youth in Crow Agency boarding school and may have had some Pueblo Indian and Apache Indian ancestry as well. The couple married in 1929, and Ben Campbell was born in 1933.
During Campbell's childhood, his father continued to have problems with alcoholism, often leaving the family for weeks and months at a time. His mother continued to have problems with tuberculosis, a highly contagious disease that limited the contact she could have with her children and continued to force her into the hospital for long periods. These problems led Ben and his sister, Alberta (who died in an apparent suicide at age 44), to spend much of their early lives in nearby Catholic orphanages. As a young man, Campbell was introduced to the Japanese martial art of judo by Japanese immigrant families he met while working in local agricultural fields.
Military service and education
Campbell attended Placer High School, dropping out in 1951 to join the U.S. Air Force. He was stationed in Korea during the Korean War as an air policeman; he left the Air Force in 1953 with the rank of Airman Second Class, as well as the Korean Service Medal and the Air Medal. While in the Air Force, Campbell obtained his GED and, after his discharge, used the G.I. Bill to attend San Jose State University, graduating in 1957 with a Bachelor of Arts in physical education and fine arts.
He is listed as Ben M. Campbell in his college records and records of his Olympic competition, but was given the name "Nighthorse" when he returned to the Northern Cheyenne reservation for his name-giving ceremony, as a member of his father's family, Blackhorse.
In college, Campbell was a member of the San Jose State judo team, coached by future USA Olympic coach Yosh Uchida. While training for the Olympic Games, Campbell attended Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan, as a special research student from 1960 to 1964. The Meiji team was world-renowned and Campbell credited the preparation and discipline taught at Meiji for his 1961, 1962, and 1963 U.S. National titles and his gold medal in the 1963 Pan-American Games. In 1964, Campbell competed in judo at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. This made him the first Native American on the U.S. Olympic judo team. He suffered an injury and did not win a medal. He broke his ankle and was out for two years.
In the years after returning from the Olympic Games, Campbell worked as a deputy sheriff in Sacramento County, California, coached the U.S. national judo team, operated his own dojo in Sacramento, and taught high school (physical education and art classes). He and his wife also raised quarterhorses, including a Supreme Champion and AQHA Champion, Sailors Night. They bought a ranch near Ignacio, Colorado, on the Southern Ute reservation in 1978.
In Herman Viola's book Ben Nighthorse Campbell: An American Warrior, Campbell recounts learning to make jewelry from his father and flattening silver dollars on train tracks for the materials. He also used techniques learned from sword makers in Japan and other non-traditional techniques to win over 200 national and international awards for jewelry design under the name Ben Nighthorse, and in the late 1970s was included in a feature article in Arizona Highways magazine about Native artists experimenting in the "new look" of Indian jewelry. Campbell has works on display with the Art of the Olympians organization.
Campbell was elected to the Colorado State Legislature as a Democrat in November 1982, and served two terms. He was voted one of the 10 Best Legislators by his colleagues in a 1986 Denver Post – News Center 4 survey.
In 1986, Campbell was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, defeating incumbent Mike Strang; he was reelected twice to this seat. In 1989, he authored the bill HR 2668 to establish the National Museum of the American Indian, which became PL 101–185.
The early 1990s marked a turning point in Campbell's political career. In 1992, after Senator Tim Wirth announced his retirement, Campbell won a three-way Democratic primary against former three-term Governor Richard Lamm and Boulder County Commissioner Josie Heath, who had been the party's nominee in 1990. During the primary campaign, Lamm supporters accused Heath of "spoiling" the election by splitting the vote of the party's left wing. Heath's campaign argued that it was Campbell who should not have run, because his voting record in Congress had been much more like that of a Republican. Campbell won the primary with 45% of the vote and defeated Republican State Senator Terry Considine in the general election. He was the first Native American elected to the United States Senate since Charles Curtis in the 1920s.
In March 1995, after two years in office, Campbell switched parties from Democratic to Republican in the wake of publicized disputes he had with the Colorado Democratic Party. Campbell said the last straw was the Senate's defeat of the balanced-budget amendment, which he had championed since coming to Washington as a congressman in 1987. Others attributed the switch to personal hostility within the Democratic Party in Colorado.
In 1998, Campbell was reelected to the Senate by what was then the largest margin in Colorado history for a statewide race. After winning reelection, Campbell identified as a moderate Republican, saying that his reelection "shows the moderate voices within the Republican Party are dominating". During President Bill Clinton's impeachment trail, Campbell voted to convict Clinton on both articles of impeachment against him; in his final statement before the vote, he said: "I took a solemn oath. Simply speaking, the president did too. And, so even though I like him personally, I find I can only vote one way. And that is guilty on both articles." Clinton was acquitted on both counts as neither received the necessary two-thirds majority vote of the senators present for conviction and removal from office.
In the 106th Congress, Campbell passed more public laws than any other member of Congress. During his tenure, he also became the first American Indian to chair the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. While in the Senate, Campbell voted to support the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision. He gradually became more conservative during his tenure, reversing his position on late-term abortions and voting for the Defense of Marriage Act. However, in 2004, he was one of six Republicans who voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, a constitutional amendment intended to ban same-sex marriage, on the grounds that it should be left to the states.
The Senate Ethics Committee investigated accusations that Campbell's former chief of staff, Virginia Kontnik, inflated bonuses to an aide in 2002 so he could return the money to her. In subsequent interviews, Kontnik claimed that Campbell had approved the deal, which he denied.
After the prisoner abuse in Iraq by American military personnel and viewing unpublished abuse images alongside Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's Senate testimony, Campbell admonished the administration and military leadership: "I don't know how the hell these people got into our army."
On March 3, 2004, Campbell announced that he would not seek reelection due to health concerns, having recently been treated for prostate cancer and heartburn. He retired from office in January 2005, later saying of his decision: "Somewhere along the line, I said 'I'm not gonna die in this place. I want to do what I can, but I'm not dying here.'" He is the last Republican to be elected to the Class 3 Senate seat from Colorado.
After his retirement, Campbell was a senior policy advisor at the firm of Holland and Knight, LLP, in Washington, D.C. In 2012, he left that firm to found Ben Nighthorse Consultants, a new lobbying firm. He also continues to design and craft his Ben Nighthorse line of American Indian jewelry.
In 2008, during the Cherokee freedmen controversy, Campbell authored a piece in The Hill criticizing the efforts of members of Congress attempting to terminate recognition of the Cherokee Nation's government, and condemning the lawmakers' "paternalistic efforts":
"In the past, interference with tribal affairs, often justified by a paternalistic 'we know best' mindset, has severely damaged the progress of tribes. Often, Congress not only didn't know best, but it based its decision on lies, mistaken assumptions and prejudice...Congress is again rushing to judgment when it thinks it knows better than the tribe and the courts."
In July 2016, Campbell spoke to Colorado Public Radio about regretting his support of the Iraq War: "I have some misgivings about the way I voted but we were voting on the best information that we had at the time. I think if there was a weakness early on [it] is that the administration had several people in there really pushing for American involvement...In retrospect after seeing that there [were] no weapons of mass destruction and that we did not have really good intelligence on the ground to give us some guidance on how we should proceed, I now look back and think maybe I shouldn't have voted the way I did."
In late 2018, Campbell joined several former Republican and Democratic senators in signing a letter supporting then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 election. But he opposed the impeachment of President Donald Trump, defending Trump and calling it "a waste of time". He also questioned why the Democrats would move to impeach knowing they would fail to convict in the Senate, saying, "The cost of this and what it does to the country, it kind of tears the fabric of the nation apart."
In June 2020, Campbell appeared on Breitbart News radio to respond to and defend Trump's use of the Veterans' Memorial Preservation Act, which Campbell had introduced while in the Senate in 2003, to defend American statues during the civil unrest. During the interview he voiced his disgust at the vandalizing of war memorials around the country, and also defended the statue of Andrew Jackson that had been targeted by rioters and vandals: "Leave it there, but tell the whole story. I don't think you can rewrite history to only tell your point of view. Seems to me, if we're really going to learn from history so that we don't make the same dumb mistakes, we must look at the bad things that happened at the same time...but to do away with it, I don't think it's the right thing. You know, you can't sanitize history by getting rid of all the symbols of oppression." Campbell compared the destruction of statues to the Taliban's destruction of cultural and religious sites, and said the law must be enforced to protect the monuments or otherwise, "We're in for a full-fledged insurrection if we don't stop it." He also condemned the violence in the 2020 protests: "A lot of this is driven by, in my view, people who are basically anarchists. They want to change our whole national structure, and a little bit of white guilt thrown in there, too. There's just a better way to do it if people don't want those statues to remain, because where does it end?" He concluded the interview by saying, "I think part of the learning process and teaching our kids is not to totally sanitize things by getting rid of the things that we didn't like from the old days. We need to explain it to our youngsters why the bad things happened."
In October 2020, Campbell appeared on Indian Country Today to speak on a variety of issues, including his party switch in 1995 and promoting free enterprise for Native Americans. He defended his switch to the Republican Party, and when asked whether its policies were better for Native peoples, he replied: "The head of the Ku Klux Klan was not a Republican, it was a Democrat. It wasn't a Republican who put 350,000 Japanese Americans in prison without any legal authority to do it, that was a Democrat, Roosevelt. And Andrew Jackson drove the Trail of Tears, of the Cherokees, the Chickasaws, the Choctaws, and many other tribes, taking their land by force. That wasn't a Republican that did that. That was a Democrat… so when people say the Democrat Party has been more willing to help Native Americans, I dispute that. That's not true." He went on to say how optimistic he was that more Native people were becoming involved and running for office, expressed support for Trump and his immigration policies, and voiced his concern with the rise of antifa.
In September 2021, Campbell endorsed Olympic athlete and Air Force veteran Eli Bremer in the Colorado Republican primary for the 2022 senate race to challenge Democrat Michael Bennet. After Bremer lost the primary, Campbell endorsed Republican nominee Joe O'Dea in June 2022.
In 1966, Campbell married the former Linda Price, a public school teacher who was a native of Colorado. They have two children and four grandchildren.
Linda Campbell was the sponsor of USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) on January 15, 2005.
|Republican||Donald F. Whalen||7,216||46.09|
|Democratic gain from Republican|
|Democratic||Ben Nighthorse Campbell||3,059||100.0|
|Democratic||Ben Nighthorse Campbell (incumbent)||14,405||71.80|
|Republican||Patricia "Patsi" Hart||5,658||28.20|
|Democratic||Ben Nighthorse Campbell||29,422||100.0|
|Democratic||Ben Nighthorse Campbell||95,353||51.86|
|Republican||Michael L. "Mike" Strang (incumbent)||88,508||48.14|
|Democratic gain from Republican|
|Democratic||Ben Nighthorse Campbell||31,828||100.0|
|Democratic||Ben Nighthorse Campbell (incumbent)||169,284||78.04|
|Democratic||Ben Nighthorse Campbell||36,722||100.0|
|Democratic||Ben Nighthorse Campbell (incumbent)||124,487||70.19|
|Colorado Populist Party||Howard E. Fields||2,915||1.64|
|Democratic||Ben Nighthorse Campbell||117,634||45.48|
|Democratic||Richard D. Lamm||93,599||36.19|
|Democratic||Ben Nighthorse Campbell||803,125||51.78|
|Perot's Independents||Richard O. Grimes||42,455||2.73|
|Christian Pro-Life||Matt Noah||22,846||1.47|
|Republican||Ben Nighthorse Campbell||154,641||70.59|
|Republican||Ben Nighthorse Campbell (incumbent)||826,966||62.47|
|Natural Law||Jeffrey Peckham||3,912||0.30|
|Concerns of People||John Heckman||3,230||0.24|
|US Pacifist Party||Gary Swing||1,903||0.14|
2008: Awarded Ellis Island Medal of Freedom
2011: Conferral of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon by Japanese Emperor Akihito. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell's award is in recognition of his significant contribution in the promotions and mutual understanding between Japan, the United States.
November 2021: Inducted into National Native American Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, OK.
- List of American politicians who switched parties in office
- List of Native American artists
- List of Native Americans in the United States Congress
- List of Native American politicians
- Native American jewelry
- List of United States senators who switched parties
- "CO State House 59 Race – Nov 02, 1982". Our Campaigns. Retrieved March 2, 2020.
- "CO State House 59 Race – Nov 06, 1984". Our Campaigns. Retrieved March 2, 2020.
- "Colorado Experience: Ben Nighthorse Campbell". PBS. April 11, 2019. Retrieved April 12, 2019.
- "Ben Nighthorse Campbell Leaves Holland & Knight to Start Own Lobbying Shop". Retrieved August 1, 2016.
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- "INS Delays Deporting Honor Student". September 27, 2002. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
- 1964 Summer Olympics official report. Volume 2. Part 2. p. 620
- Sports-reference.com profile Archived November 3, 2012, at the Wayback Machine (Listed as Ben Campbell). Accessed October 31, 2010.
- Swisher, Karen Gayton; Benally, AnCita, eds. (1998). Native North American Firsts. Detroit: Gale. p. 219. ISBN 0787605182.
- "Ben Nighthorse Campbell / Judo / Jewelry". Art of the Olympians. Archived from the original on February 21, 2017. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
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- "Clinton Impeachment: Statement By Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell". AustralianPolitics.com. February 12, 1999. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
- Kellman, Laurie (October 21, 1999). "Senate Supports Abortion Rights". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 28, 2018.
- Gray, Jerry (November 9, 1995). "Abortion Foes Dealt Setback By the Senate". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
- Dorning, Mike (September 26, 1996). "Senate Fails to Overturn Veto of 'Partial Birth' Abortion Ban". Chicago Tribune.
- "Same-sex marriage Senate battle over, war is not – Jul 15, 2004". CNN. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
- "Senate Says No to Marriage Amendment". Los Angeles Times. July 15, 2004. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
- Janofsky, Michael (March 4, 2004). "G.O.P. Senator Campbell of Colorado Will Retire". The New York Times. Retrieved October 7, 2014.
- "US soldier 'photographed having sex'". Irish Examiner. May 13, 2004. Archived from the original on May 30, 2004. Retrieved April 12, 2021.
- "New abuse photos are 'even worse'". BBC News. July 14, 2014. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
- Janofsky, Michael (March 4, 2004). "G.O.P. Senator Campbell of Colorado Will Retire". The New York Times.
- "Ben Nighthorse Campbell Leaves Holland & Knight to Start Own Lobbying Shop". Durango Herald. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
- "Lobbying World". The Hill. July 17, 2012. Retrieved August 6, 2012.
- "Lake Nighthorse reaches capacity". Durango Herald. Retrieved June 28, 2012.
- "ReFormers Caucus". Issue One. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
- Campbell, Ben Nighthorse (April 28, 2008). "A move to destroy the Cherokee Nation". Retrieved August 14, 2018.
- "Former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell from Colorado Endorses John Kasich for President". Blog.4president.org. November 13, 2015.
- "Former Colorado Senator on Iraq War: 'Maybe I Shouldn't Have Voted The Way I Did'". www.cpr.org. July 8, 2016.
- "We are former Senators. The Senate has long stood in defense of democracy — and must again". The Washington Post. September 23, 2022.
- Winter, Allison (November 19, 2019). "Two Colorado congressmen take center stage on impeachment". coloradoindependent.com/. Retrieved November 25, 2019.
- Kraychik, Robert (June 25, 2020). "Exclusive – Native American Senator Who Introduced Monument Protection Law Defends Andrew Jackson Statue". Retrieved July 7, 2020.
- Tripathi, Namrata (June 27, 2020). "Indigenous ex-senator who brought monument protection laws defends Andrew Jackson statue despite gory history". Retrieved July 7, 2020.
- Pember, Mary Annette (October 15, 2020). "The evolving politics of Ben Nighthorse Campbell". Retrieved October 16, 2020.
- Luning, Ernest (October 7, 2021). "Ben Nighthorse Campbell endorses Eli Bremer in GOP Senate primary". Coloradopolitics.com (published September 15, 2021). Archived from the original on October 9, 2021. Retrieved October 9, 2021.
- Luning, Ernest (June 1, 2022). "Ben Nighthorse Campbell throws support behind Joe O'Dea in Colorado's Republican US Senate primary". www.coloradopolitics.com. Retrieved June 2, 2022.
- Rodebaugh, Dale (June 30, 2011). "Lake Nighthorse reaches capacity". Durangoherald.com. Retrieved March 2, 2020.
- "State Election Results, 1982" (PDF). Colorado Secretary of State. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
- "State Election Results, 1984" (PDF). Colorado Secretary of State. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
- "State Election Results, 1986" (PDF). Colorado Secretary of State. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
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- "Cidadãos Estrangeiros Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas". Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas. Retrieved March 20, 2019.
Media related to Ben Nighthorse Campbell at Wikimedia Commons