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Jack M. Campbell

Born: 1916

By Michael Ann Sullivan

Jack M. Campbell, served two terms as governor of New Mexico from 1963–1966. Campbell worked to increase money for education at all levels—often exhorting that education was the cornerstone for future progress in New Mexico. Campbell also stressed long-term economic development with an emphasis on scientific and technological industry.

At his inauguration, January 1, 1963, Jack M. Campbell told the assembled crowd at the Fine Arts Museum on the Plaza in Santa Fe that “no greater honor can come to a man than to be elected to the State that he loves.” He made but one promise to his constituents. “I shall do my best to merit the confidence you have placed in me.” Campbell proceeded to make good on his promise. He visited every state institution during his first year in office, displaying the drive and initiative that won him the gubernatorial office in the first place.

Jack M. Campbell came from humble origins and worked hard to obtain an education and establish a successful career. He was born in Hutchinson, Kansas in 1916. His father died when he was a young boy and Campbell worked part-time, as a newsboy, elevator operator, traveling salesman, and drugstore clerk to help his mother offset the expenses of his high school and college education.

His first exposure to politics was the 1936 Democratic National Convention, an event he attended as the winner of an oratorical contest sponsored by the Kansas Democratic Party. Campbell loved politics and subsequently became involved in the Democratic Party Speaker’s Bureau as one of its youngest members.

In 1940, Campbell graduated magna cum laude with a law degree from Washburn College in Topeka, Kansas. He moved to Albuquerque several months after graduation, at the invitation of a relative, and set up a private law practice. Campbell immediately fell in love with New Mexico–the beautiful landscape and its people.

In 1941, Campbell joined the FBI and served 18 months most of it out of the L.A. office. He resigned to join the Marine Corps during WWII. Campbell served in New Caledonia, Bouganville, Guadalcanal, and Iwo Jima. After the war, he returned to New Mexico and wed Ruthanne DeBus, a young woman he had met while working in California for the FBI.

Campbell practiced law in Albuquerque for a year but settled in Roswell, New Mexico, and worked for the firms of Atwood, Malone, and Campbell, and John F. Russell. He was general counsel for the Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association of New Mexico and served as the executive secretary for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association in Roswell.

Campbell first ran for public office in 1954, winning a seat in the House of Representatives for Chaves County. He served four terms in the House and distinguished himself. He was appointed to the Board of Finance from 1955–1959 and elected Speaker of the House for the 1961–1962 legislative session.

In 1962, Campbell ran for governor, upsetting both Democratic candidates in the primary, and defeating four-term governor Republican Edwin. L. Mechem. Campbell went on to win a second term in 1964 by a record-breaking 64,000 votes. Campbell’s work for education, economic development, long-range planning, and state administration were among his greatest accomplishments.

In his second inaugural address, Campbell invoked past governors’ efforts to improve education in New Mexico. Citing Governor Calhoun in 1851, he echoed the late governor’s sentiment that the education of the state’s citizens was the bedrock of public and private life. Although many previous governors had improved educational opportunities for New Mexicans Campbell related that New Mexico was last in the nation in the number of ninth graders who completed high school. He also lamented that 80–85 % of youth did not go on to college. Campbell increased general fund appropriations in his first term for public schools at the elementary, secondary, and university levels. In his second term he passed legislation for the creation of junior colleges and vocational schools. Campbell wrote in a 1966 article for the Portales News-Tribune, “There is a need for broad, general education because there will be no room at the bottom of the economic ladder for those who are illiterate, unskilled, undereducated or otherwise unable to function in a changing society.” He also spoke of the need to establish a climate in the schools that would generate in students “an incurable and permanent zest for learning.”

As part of his economic development campaign, Campbell vigorously promoted New Mexico as a tourist destination and advertised its climate, mountains, national parks, and outdoor recreational opportunities—fishing, boating, and camping. During his administration, facilities at state parks more than doubled and opportunities for fishing and hunting multiplied. A full-page color ad promoting New Mexico ski resorts ran in 1965. The Tourist Division of the New Mexico Development Department ran another ad in eight national magazines promoting the Land of Enchantment: “New Mexico as exciting as a foreign land but as comfortable as home.” The Tourist Division also distributed films and brochures about New Mexico, conducted tourist clinics in 12 cities to train tourist oriented industries, and erected new Welcome signs at all 19 ports of entry to the state.

Campbell did not rely on tourism alone to fuel New Mexico’s economy. He took advantage of New Mexico’s WWII legacy of nuclear science and space research and aggressively promoted these industries to boost the economy further. In 1963, Campbell was the first governor to appoint a scientific advisor and scientific advisory committee. One of the first projects the committee undertook was to prepare a report on the White Sands area for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The committee determined that White Sands would make an excellent choice for landing returning space ships. In 1965, NASA allocated 15 million dollars for a facility at White Sands to research engines for lunar excursion vehicles. The University of New Mexico was also chosen by NASA as a site for the development of a regional Technical Application Center to facilitate the exchange of space research and expertise between the academy and private industry.

Campbell also assisted local communities in attracting more conventional business and industry opportunities. During Campbell’s two term administration New Mexico experienced four years of economic growth with more jobs becoming available and a steady rise in personal income. In 1965 the following businesses opened or expanded—the Hanes Knitting Company in Las Cruces, a millwork plant near Grants, Swift and Co. in Clovis, a pickle packing plant in Isleta, and a sawmill near Cloudcroft.

In 1965, Campbell sponsored and supported the building of a bridge across the Rio Grande Gorge in Taos, connecting the northern part of the state with major highways leading to both the east and west coasts. The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge made accessible some of the most beautiful regions in the state and was the highest bridge in the nation at the time. At the dedication ceremony, Campbell touted the bridge as “one of the most important economic breakthroughs in many years for the northern tier of counties.” He hoped it would bring travelers and tourists into one of the most beautiful but chronically depressed regions in New Mexico. Campbell concluded his dedication speech, “May the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge be the bridge to a better life for all who pass this way.”

Campbell also endeavored to improve the care of the dependent population of the state—those with mental illness or mental retardation, delinquent youth, and men and women in prison. Campbell encouraged programs that emphasized rehabilitation rather than custodial care. The State Hospital more than doubled its staff, the Las Lunas Hospital and Training School tripled its capacity to treat people with mental retardation, the Boys School at Springer instituted a vocational school, the Girl’s Welfare Home in Albuquerque initiated a therapeutic community approach, and the legislature passed the Probation and Parole Act which improved rehabilitation at the penitentiary and reduced recidivism.

Campbell instituted a number of administrative reforms to improve the overall tenor of state government. He sponsored a bill to create a State Planning Office which proceeded to undertake a number of studies to survey the states resources and liabilities and plan for the future. Campbell saw long-range planning as key to the continued economic success of the state. He also supported and strengthened the State Personnel Act which curtailed political appointments and insured qualified and properly trained people would fill state positions. The Personnel Act reduced government job turnover by 50% for an estimated savings of 13 million dollars.

Governor Campbell loved New Mexico—his adopted state. He was proud of its history and people and he worked to improve the economic base for all New Mexicans. He built bridges both literally and figuratively. He made connections and created opportunities for New Mexico with industry, the federal government, and even foreign countries. Campbell made a number of trips to Chihuahua, Mexico, the first governor to establish closer ties with its neighbor. The conclusion of Campbell’s speech to the 1963 legislature captures best his style and governmental philosophy. “I firmly believe that sincere effort and solid results toward better government are the best routes to political success. I shall be content to know I tried my best.”

Sources Used:

The preceeding brief biography came from original source material from the papers of Governor Jack M. Campbell, accession # 1959–242, located at the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives, 1205 Camino Carlos Rey, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87505. A list of documents follows. Paragraphs will be indicated where direct quotation of source material occurs.

“Governor’s Inauguration Plans Made At Meet Here,” The New Mexican, November 27, 1962.

Jack M. Campbell, Inaugural Speech, January 1, 1963, Box 1, Folder 5, Jack M. Campbell Papers. Cited in paragraph 2.

Governor’s Inauguration, press release, December 31, 1964, Box 1, Folder 5, Jack M. Campbell Papers. Cited in paragraph 17.

Suggested Notes for Inaugural Speech, first draft, 1965, Box 1, Folder 5, Jack M. Campbell Papers.

Governor Jack M. Campbell, Governor’s Address to the Opening of the Twenty-Seventh New Mexico State Legislature, Joint Session of the House and Senate, Santa Fe, New Mexico, January 19, 1965, Box 1, Folder 2, Jack M. Campbell Papers.

Governor’s Office to Jerry Hutchinson, April 15th 1965, Box 65, Folder 3040, Jack M. Campbell Papers.

Jack M. Campbell, “Bridge Building—An Act of Faith,” dedication speech Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, September 10, 1965, Box 68, Folder 3119, Jack M. Campbell Papers. Cited in paragraph 14.

Jack M. Campbell, “New Mexico Hitches Its Wagon to Education Star,” The Portales News-Tribune, January 19, 1966, 5. Cited in paragraph 10.

Jack M. Campbell, “State Takes New Approach to Industrial Development,” Hobbs News-Sun, January 19, 1966, 7.

Jack M. Campbell, “How State Spends, Invests Tax Dollar,” The New Mexican, January 27, 1966, A3.

Jack M. Campbell, “State Government Mixes Competence, Compassion,” The New Mexico Story, Santa Fe, NM: February 7, 1966, Box 1, Folder 4, Jack M. Campbell Papers.

Jack M. Campbell, “Long-Range Planning for Government,” The New Mexico Story, Santa Fe, NM: February 7, 1966, Box 1, Folder 4, Jack M. Campbell Papers.

Jack M. Campbell, “State Personnel Act Helps NM Economy and Stability,” The New Mexico Story, Santa Fe, NM: February 7, 1966, Box 1, Folder 4, Jack M. Campbell Papers.

Jack M. Campbell, “Tourism—New Mexico’s Second Largest Industry,” The New Mexico Story, Santa Fe, NM: February 7, 1966, Box 1, Folder 4, Jack M. Campbell Papers. Cited in paragraph 11.