Honolulu to honor the late Charles M. Campbell


The late former Honolulu City Council member, former State Representative and former State Senator, Charles Campbell—the man who carried the Lei to Selma in March of 1965—will be honored by the Honolulu City Council on March 11, 2015 at 8:30 a.m. at the City Council Chamber, 3rd floor Honolulu Hale.

Campbell was active in civil rights and politics after arriving in Hawaii in 1955 with his wife, Naomi. In 1964 he organized a statewide effort to send 90,000 post cards from Hawaii citizens to the U.S. Congress urging support of the Civil Rights bill then being debated. He and Reverand Abraham Akaka went to Washington, D.C., to personally lobby for the bill. In 1965 Campbell went to Selma, Alabama to March with Dr. Martin Luther King and thousands of others over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, which had been the scene of an attack by Alabama State Troopers on an earlier march led by (now) Congressman John Lewis. The lei worn by Dr. King were from Senator Campbell.

In October 2005, Charles Campbell was among 100 people honored for making long-lasting contributions to The City & County of Honolulu.

Mayor Mufi Hannemann oversaw the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of Honolulu County (originally Oahu County) in 2005, and helped unveil the list of notables, who ranged from surfers to sumo wrestlers. Hannemann characterized the names as a "microcosm of the greatness of this city." The list, he said, offers "a great opportunity to reflect on our past."

"Our mission was to find people from 1905 to 2005 that come from different walks of life—arts, sports, politics," Linda Wong, vice-chairwoman of the Honolulu Centennial Celebration Commission said. "We really wanted to get a cross-section of the community."

Highlights of Charles Campbell's career:
School teacher
Newscaster - KGMB
Invented the electioneering campaign sign-holding tradition
An activist from Hawaii in the 1960s
Chaired the Civil Rights Conference of Hawaii
Chairman of the Hawaii Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
In 1964 he organized a statewide effort to send 90,000 post cards from Hawaii citizens to the U.S. Congress urging support of the Civil Rights bill which was being debated
Traveled to Washington D.C. with the Rev. Abraham Akaka to lobby for passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill
Rev. Akaka donated the Lei that Campbell and delegation took to Selma 1965
Elected as chair of Oahu County Democratic Committee - 1968
Elected to Honolulu City Council - 3rd Council 1969-71
Only African-American to be elected to the Honolulu City Council
Elected to the Hawaii State Legislature - 1976
Elected to the Hawaii State Senate - 1979

Campbell was born in North Carolina in 1918. He grew up there and received an A.D. degree from North Carolina College in Durham. He also received an M.A. degree from Howard University and a second M.A. from Columbia University.

Campbell began his career by becoming the first Black newscaster to do "straight broadcasting" in Philadelphia. He was the first Black member of the Radio Television News Directors Association and became Vice President of Radio News Reel Television Working Press Association.

In the early 1950s Campbell met and married Naomi (Charner) Campbell, a Chicago, Illinois attorney. They moved to Honolulu, Hawaii in 1955 where Naomi Campbell practiced law and became a Family Court Judge.

By 1962, Campbell was a newscaster for KGMB in Honolulu. Campbell was also active in the Honolulu community. He served as adviser to the Leilehua High School debate team and taught American history part-time at Farrington High School and Kaimuki High School. Campbell also created the popular Junior-Senior Citizens Dialogue Living History where senior citizens were invited to high schools to talk about their lives with young students.

In the late 1960s Campbell chaired the Civil Rights Conference of Hawaii and was Chairman of the Hawaii Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In 1968 he became Chairman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii, the first and only African American to hold that post in the state's history. Also in 1968, Campbell was elected to the Honolulu City Council, where he served until 1971. He was the first politician to use sign waving on street corners to gather votes in Hawaii.

While on the City Council he helped establish the medical school at the University of Hawaii, Manoa campus. His daughter Laurie Campbell was in the first graduating class of the UH Medical School.

In 1973, Campbell was elected the 3rd President of the Hawaii State Teachers Association.

In 1976 he won the 17th District seat in the Hawaii House of Representatives. While in the legislature, he fought for open government and sponsored Hawaii's first "sunshine law" which required that all government records be open to the public. Two years later, Campbell was elected to the Hawaii State Senate where he served a four year term.

Charles Campbell died in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1986.


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