Ben Nighthorse Campbell

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Template:Infobox Senator

Ben Nighthorse Campbell (born April 13, 1933) is an American politician. He was a U.S. Senator from Colorado from 1993 until 2005 and was for some time the only Native American serving in the U.S. Congress. Campbell was a U.S. Representative from 1987 to 1993, when he was sworn into office as a Senator following his election on November 3, 1992. Campbell also serves as one of the 44 member Council of Chiefs of the Northern Cheyenne Nation.

Originally a member of the Democratic Party, Campbell switched to the Republican Party in 1995 after the Republicans gained control of Congress. Reelected in 1998, Campbell announced in March 2004 that he would not run for reelection to a third term in November of that year. He has recently expressed interest in running for Governor of Colorado in 2006. His Senate seat was won by Democrat Ken Salazar in the November 2004 election.


Early life and military service

Missing image
Airman Campbell.

Campbell was born in Auburn, California. His mother, Mary Vierra, was a Portuguese immigrant who had come to the U.S. at age six. There Vierra's family settled in the large Portuguese community near Sacramento. When Vierra contracted tuberculosis in her youth, she met at the hospital Albert Campbell, a Northern Cheyenne Indian. There he was being treated for alcoholism. The couple later married, and Ben Nighthorse 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 health problems, with tuberculosis, a highly contagious disease that limited the contact she could have with her children. These problems led to Ben and his sister Alberta spending much of their early lives in orphanages.

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; 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.

Education and Olympic competition

After returning to the United States, Campbell attended San Jose State College (now San Jose State University), where he joined the judo team, a sport he first participated in as a teenager. He received a bachelor's degree in physical education and fine arts in 1957. Campbell later studied Japanese culture at Meiji University in Tokyo as a special research student from 1960 to 1964. While in Japan, Campbell continued to return to the United States to compete in judo competitions, winning three U.S. national championships and a gold medal at the 1963 Pan American Games.

Campbell was the captain of the U.S. judo team in the 1964 Summer Olympics, competing in the open weightclass. Campbell won his first round match, but seriously injured his knee during his second round match, ending his judo career. Campbell was chosen to carry the American flag during the closing ceremonies, after swimmer Don Schollander was unable to attend. Campbell remained involved in judo as an instructor, and wrote the judo training manual Championship Judo Training Drills, published in 1974.

Political career

Missing image
The elder Campbell.

Campbell later became a self-employed jewelry designer, as well as a rancher and horse trainer, in his adopted hometown of Ignacio, Colorado. His jewelry has been displayed at the National Museum of the American Indian. In 1983, he was elected to the Colorado General Assembly. In November 1986, Campbell was elected to the U.S. House, where he took office in January 1987.

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