The Columbus Dispatch

88-year-old gains ground in pursuit of compensation

Man still has time to present evidence

Friday, June 24, 2005

Felix Hoover

Cecil W. Campbell filed a claim for up to $150,000 for illnesses he says resulted from his work with uranium in ’43.

Cecil W. Campbell’s appeal at a medical-claim hearing yesterday lacked the sizzle of the uranium he handled at a West Side plant during World War II but left a ray of hope that the federal government might compensate him for years of pain.

The 88-year-old South Side man, who has prostate cancer and lymphoma of the bone marrow, now has legal representation and has 30 more days to provide more evidence before a final decision is issued.

In October, he filed a claim for up to $150,000 and medical expenses, saying the illnesses resulted from his work at B &T Metals. The company processed 50 tons of uranium rods in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project, the top-secret effort that produced the first atomic bombs.

"I never told anybody; I can keep a secret," Campbell testified before Tracy L. Smart, of the Department of Labor office in Cleveland. The hearing was held Downtown at the Federal Building, 200 N. High St.

Secretiveness might have been essential for the project but detrimental to the initial preparation of his case. Both Campbell and his current wife, Rita, testified that they had kept secrets from each other about his health.

Usually reserved, he briefly wept at the end of his testimony, which included information about a litany of illnesses that he said began a few months after the uranium project ended. Mrs. Campbell walked around the conference table to console him.

Mrs. Campbell testified that she was concerned not only about her husband, but also other family members who might have been harmed by contact with him.

Mr. Campbell, who worked at B &T from 1940 to ’68, hadn’t sought legal advice until a couple of weeks ago, by which time the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health had recommended that his claim be denied. The institute found a 32 percent probability that his cancers were caused by the radiation exposure; 50 percent is needed for a claimant to prevail.

Several lawyers declined to handle Campbell’s appeal.

Not until this week did he contact lawyer Clenzo B. Fox, who had worked as a press operator at B &T after its uranium extrusion had ended. Fox hadn’t seen Campbell’s files before yesterday’s hearing but told Smart that he would review them and seek other information on his former boss’s behalf.

Smart said an extension on the 30-day limit for more evidence could be granted.

fhoover@dispatch.com