Ben Nighthorse Campbell (born April 13, 1933) is an American politician. He has been a U.S. Senator from Colorado since 1993 and is the only Native American presently 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.
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.
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 heath 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.
After returning to the United States, Campbell attended San Jose State College (now San Jose State University), where he joined the judo team, winning three national championships and becoming the captain of the U.S. judo team in the 1964 Summer Olympics. He recieved 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.
Campbell later became a self-employed jewelry designer, as well as a rancher and horse trainer, in his adopted hometown of Ignacio, Colorado. 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.