He became a civil rights pioneer at age 7. He excelled academically at two of the South’s finest universities. A law practice led him into a political career that gave him national stature. His name appeared on short lists for a Cabinet appointment, maybe even the Democratic nomination for vice president. “I have lived the American dream,” Bill Campbell said last month.
Exactly two weeks later, the former Atlanta mayor stood before a federal judge, answering to charges that he operated City Hall as a criminal enterprise, facing years in prison unless he convinces a jury that he is not guilty.
But when federal authorities announced Monday that a grand jury had indicted Campbell on racketeering and corruption charges, the only surprise was in the timing. Campbell, mayor from 1994 to 2002, had been the target of a federal investigation for more than four years, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. One after another of Campbell’s associates went to prison as the investigation inched toward its ultimate target. The indictment underscored the downward trajectory of Campbell’s public life. A man who socialized with sports stars, rap moguls and even a president had to submit Monday to the indignities of being fingerprinted and posing for a booking photograph. Campbell, 51, denied wrongdoing. He dismissed as “lies” the entire 48-page, seven-count indictment. Campbell says the charges are the result of racism.