TopVet: Ben Nighthorse Campbell, U.S. Senator

Benjamin Nighthorse Campbell

When he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992,Colorado's Ben Nighthorse Campbell became the first American Indian to serve in the Senate in more than 60 years. He is the only American Indian presently serving in either the Senate or the House of Representatives.

Senator Campbell was born in Auburn, California, on April 13, 1933, the son of Mary Vierra, a Portuguese immigrant, and Albert Campbell, a Northern Cheyenne Indian. He served with the Air Force in Korea, where he attained the rank of Airman 2nd Class and earned the Korean Service Medal and the Air Force Medal. His term of enlistment completed, he went to college, earning a bachelor's degree in physical education and fine arts from San Jose State University in 1957. In 1960, he attended Meiji University in Tokyo as a special research student.

An All-American in Judo, Campbell is a three-time U.S. Judo champion. A Gold-medal winner in the Pan-American Games of 1963, he went on to captain the U.S. Olympic Judo Team at the Tokyo Games in 1964.

Campbell is a self-employed jewelry designer - he has won more than 200 first-place and best-of-show awards for jewelry design - and rancher, and was a trainer of champion quarter horses. He is married to the former Linda Price, and is the father of two grown children, Colin and Shanan.

He was elected to the Colorado State Legislature in 1982, where he served for four years. From 1987-1992, he won election as a congressman from the 3rd District. His political star continued its rise with his election to the Senate in 1992.

A member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Parks, Historic Preservation and Recreation, and as a member of the Subcommittee on Forests and Public Lands Management. Campbell also serves on the Veterans Affairs and Indian Affairs committees; he is, in fact, the first Indian to chair Indian Affairs.

Recognized as a leader in public lands and natural resources policy, Campbell is given plaudits for his role in the passage of landmark legislation to settle Indian water rights; he is vocal in fighting for legislation to protect Colorado wilderness and water rights. Senator Campbell had more free-standing Senate legislation passed into law - 12 public laws - than any other member of Congress in the 106th Congress.

Never one to forget his roots, in 1991 he won the fight to change name of the Custer Battlefield Monument in Montana to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, legislation that honors American Indians who died in battle. He also initiated legislation to establish the National Museum of the American Indian in the Smithsonian Institution, and is a leader in developing preventive treatment programs to battle Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. He has been inducted into Council of 44 Chiefs, Northern Cheyenne Tribe, Lame Deer, Montana.

In 1992, Campbell authored the book, Reflections on the Columbus Quincentenary (1492-1992).

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