Tony Campos, activist and second Latino elected to San Bernardino City Council, dies at 85

Photo Veronica Campos: Social justice advocate, Tony Campos, was a pillar in and around the city of San Bernardino and will be highly regarded for many years to come.

San Bernardino social justice advocate, Tony Campos, passed away at the age of 85, on April 27, 2021.

Campos (who was born in Arizona) was most notably known as the second Latino, behind Mexican-American Councilman Jesse Arias Jr., to be elected to San Bernardino City Council in 1972; as well as a proponent of the Chicano Movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

He was known as a man of the people, often advocating on behalf of Latinos to garner social services, job skills, and higher educational opportunities.

“My dad’s strongest contribution to this world was ensuring everyone had the opportunity to attain an education; it was a big part of his childhood that his parents instilled into him, as they immigrated from Mexico and didn’t have the opportunity to attain a higher education,” said Veronica Campos, daughter.

With the goal of obtaining a higher education during an era where it was not as common for Latinos to do so, Campos beat the odds as he earned an associates degree in business from San Bernardino Valley College, a bachelors degree in Sociology, and a masters degree in Public Administration from California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB).

“My uncle valued local colleges and universities, he was truly a trailblazer pursuing a higher education beyond high school and served as a role model to many Latinos around the city,” said Robert Armenta Jr., nephew.

Armenta also shared that his uncle was immensely involved in the community ensuring Latinos were referred to as Mexican-Americans while receiving the fundamental services they needed to be productive members of society.

“Many Latinos in the First Ward and across the city asked my uncle to run for city council. Since he was a trailblazer in addressing many issues before being elected, many of his supporters were confident in endorsing and voting for him,” continued Armenta.

One of the most notable contributions Campos indirectly forged was getting Latinos out to vote in city politics, which was during a time where Latinos were somewhat absent from the polls.

Armenta, who is also a CSUSB alumnus, recalled a time when he was attending the university working on a research paper about Latinos running for office…when he came across an editorial in the El Chicano Newspaper; a newspaper that Campos was heavily involved with to elevate the voice of Latinos in the community.

“I came across this editorial my uncle Tony wrote for El Chicano Newspaper in the late 60s or early 70s when he was a contributing writer and the title of the article was called “The Sleeping Giant.” It was basically about how Latinos were disenfranchised politically and economically…he was very encouraged in his early years for Latinos to awaken and seek their power to mobilize their issues through the electoral process. The gist of the article was basically how the Latino community had just started to awaken and how the sleeping giant would continue to awaken in the years to come,” concluded Armenta.

Aside from encouraging other Latinos to run for city council and school boards, getting Latinos out to vote, and attaining social services for his community, Campos was all about family.

“My dad was extremely family-oriented and everything he did was for all of us. He was always very inspiring to me and used to say, ‘As long as you work hard and stay focused, dreams can be achieved.’ He went back to get his masters degree when he was 50 years old and that was huge for me to see a working adult not giving up on their dreams; he taught me it doesn’t matter how old you are, if you have goals, you can still pursue them,” concluded Veronica Campos.

Campos served on the San Bernardino City Council for one term from 1972-1976; his community involvement included the Kiwanis Club of Greater San Bernardino, Latino imPACt, and the Inland Empire Veterans Employment Committee.

In the 1970s Campos worked as an assistant director for the San Hidalgo Institute and management and systems analyst for the Inland Empire Association; from 1979 Campos worked for San Bernardino County as an administrative planning analyst in the Department of Manpower Services (the Jobs and Employment Services), and in 2011 worked as a supervisor of the Veterans Training Program.

Campos will be greatly missed by his loved ones and forever appreciated by the San Bernardino community for elevating the quality of life of Latinos in and around the city.