Friday, October 11, 2013

Palmerston Cornick Campbell (1868-1931)

From the 1907 edition of the California Blue Book.

  Following the write-up on Reaumur Coleman Stearns we journey from Virginia to Contra Costa County, California to highlight the life of a very obscure member of that state's assembly. You'd probably think that California, with its extensive history and large population, would've had a number of interestingly named people serve in some governmental capacity, but you would unfortunately be wrong. In all the years I've been busy categorizing and researching some of these oddly named folks, only a handful of Californians have been honored with a profile here on the site (Pacificus OrdCaius Tacitus Ryland and Oval Pirkey being the most notable.) With this fact in mind, I'm pleased to relate that another interestingly named California political figure has been discovered, via a 1907 California Blue Book......Palmerston Cornick Campbell!
    A one term member of the State Assembly, Campbell was also a prominent physician and surgeon, being born in Suisun City, California on May 3, 1868, the son of Samuel Duncan (1823-1875) and Julia A. Turner Campbell (died 1893). It is unknown at this time why Samuel and Julia decided to bestow the unusual name "Palmerston" upon their son, but the name may have some connection to a former British Prime Minister, Henry John Temple, the 3rd Viscount Palmerston. Prime Minster Palmerston died in office in 1865 (three years before our subject was born) so it may not be unlikely that Campbell could have been named in honor of this prominent British political figure. 
   Palmerston C. Campbell began his schooling in his native Suisun City, later attending the Napa College as well as the University of California. He decided upon a career as a physician while still a young man and in the late 1880s enrolled at the Northwestern Medical College in Missouri. Following his graduation from this school in 1890 Campbell returned to California and married in June of that year to Mary Eliza Hatch (1868-1961) and later became the father of six children, who are listed as follows by order of birth: Helen (1891-1968), Duncan Hatch (1893-1952), Juliet (1896-1968), Palma Augusta (1906-1979) and John Lindsay ( 1908-1993).
   In 1901 Dr. Palmerston C. Campbell was centered at Richmond, California (in Contra Costa County) where he operated a medical practice. In 1905 he was named as a Lieutenant Colonel and Aide-de-Camp in the California National Guard, serving on the staff of Governor George Cooper Pardee. The 1917 History of Contra Costa County, California notes that while on the Governor's staff Campbell had "charge of the State medical aid during the fire and earthquake in San Francisco." In November 1906 Dr. Campbell was elected to the California State Assembly from Contra Costa County, defeating Democratic candidate William F. Belding by a vote of 2,443 to 1,798. Taking his seat in January of the new year, Dr. Campbell would serve as Chairman of the house committee on Public Health and Quarintine during his one term in the legislature, and was also named to the committees on Claims and  Swamp and Overflowed Lands and Drainage. 
   Research on Campbell's brief term in state government has revealed that even though he may have been a political novice, he was still a man of great personal integrity, as the following example will illustrate. During his first year in the assembly Campbell introduced a bill "forbidding the importation, manufacture or sale of miss-branded drugs." With this bill Campbell insisted that "all medicine intended for internal or external use must bare a label telling of its contents", and this piece of legislation (which followed on the heels of the U.S. Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906) shows that the freshman assemblyman had the best interests of his constituents (and Californians) at heart, even if it meant jeopardizing his own political career. As he himself stated in the January 16, 1907 edition of the San Francisco Call:
"If a mother is giving her child soothing syrup containing a large percentage of morphine, she ought to know it. Then there are the consumption and cough cures, all containing opium. These things should be properly labeled. Then if they want to take them it is their own business, but it is not fair to permit them to be deceived."
   Dr. Campbell's bill (mentioned as having "followed to the letter" the 1906 Food and Drug Act) received further press in the San Francisco Call of March 2, 1907, when a rather un-statesman like shouting match erupted between he and state senator Herbert Swift Greenwood McCartney of Los Angeles County, who had introduced an "amended" pure drug bill in the senate, one which had drawn the ire of Campbell. As Campbell explained in the Call: 
"This bill has been amended just fifty-seven times, and each amendment was at the suggestion of a paid lobbyist of the patent medicine trust. Originally the bill was a copy of the national pure food law, but it isn't anything like it now. The lobbyist who has had the changes made wanted me to amend my bill as to give the druggists a secret trial, and I refused. Think of it! He wanted the bill fixed so that no one should know that misbranded or adulterated drugs has been found in a druggist's possession. My bill is a real copy of the national pure food and pure drug law. It passed this house, but is now being held up in the senate."
   After refusing to change his bill to include McCartney's measure for a secret trial amendment, a war of words erupted, with McCartney threatening to throw Campbell out of the assembly building. Campbell responded in kind, telling the senator "I dare you; if you think you can do it, start right in now." Campbell also had harsh words for the paid lobbyist who had sided with the patent medicine trust. The lobbyist (aptly named Cheatam) had threatened to ruin Campbell's political career, but the freshman assemblyman proved to be made of the sterner stuff, and when asked how he responded to the threat replied:
"I told him to go to h---. He can't bluff me."
From the San Francisco Call, March 2, 1907 (full article view-able at the link above.)

   In spite of the brouhaha surrounding the pure drug legislation, the remainder of Campbell's legislative term appears to be quieter than the first portion. In August of 1908 he wasn't renominated for another term in the assembly, with the Republican Party nominating Richmond, California city recorder Thomas Delbert Johnston instead. Johnston would go on to win the election that November and subsequently served two terms in the assembly.
  While his time in politics may have been brief, Palmerston Campbell returned to practicing medicine following his term and in 1916 was elected as president of the Contra Costa County Medical Society for one term. Campbell continued to be actively involved with the county medical society throughout the 1920s and died on October 16, 1931 at age 63 and was survived by his wife Mary, who died in 1961 at age 93. Both were interred at the Rockville Cemetery in Suisun City, California.

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