California lost one of its great statesmen last Sunday, when veteran lawmaker, Senator Bill Campbell, passed away at the age of 79. Famous for his legendary humor as well as his legislative accomplishments, Bill served in the California Assembly and Senate for nearly four decades. Prior to his retirement in 1998, he served as President of the California Manufacturer’s and Technology Association. As respected as he was well liked, Bill’s ability to achieve bipartisan solutions resulted in many landmark public policy achievements. As the founder of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Emergency Services, he authored nationally recognized improvements to the State’s Disaster Response and Preparedness programs. His leadership in that arena led to the naming of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services building in his honor by Governor Pete Wilson in 1992. 

Additional legislative landmarks included his championship of “Sunset Legislation” that resulted in most new state initiatives having set expiration dates, to combat the famous Reagan quip that “the closest thing to eternal life is a government program”. His authorship of measures to protect the images of deceased celebrities from commercial abuse, and the creation of a fast track process for adult adoptees to connect with their biological parents, became legislative standards nationally.

In addition to his legislative duties, Senator Campbell was proud of his service as Chairman of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, where he oversaw the 1984 Olympic Games. Additionally, he sponsored the first major women’s conference in Southern California where 7,000 women would gather to hear speakers like Oprah Winfrey and Sally Ryde. The women’s conference concept was subsequently copied by every governor since.

He is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Margene, and two daughters, 14 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Bill’s memory is a tribute to a time when politics gave way to productivity and when partisanship did not trump getting the people’s business done. We miss those days and will miss great leaders like Bill Campbell.