Posted by on June 10, 2015 in Blog
A dedicated servant to public life, Charles “Chuck” Abdelnour was born on February 12, 1938 in the desert town of Brawley, California. Abdelnour would go on to lead a fruitful career centered on putting people and his country first.
Abdelnour is the son of Lebanese Immigrants, his father Gabriel Abdelnour fled Lebanon in 1917 to escape religious persecution. Grateful for his newfound sovereignty, Gabriel reminded his children to hold dear the beauty of democracy and freedom.
From his father, Abdelnour inherited the desire to be part of the democratic nation and community that welcomed him and his family. He accomplished this in part by serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era, but this was only the beginning.
A graduate from San Diego State University, Abdelnour later received his law degree from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 1974. He began working with the city of San Diego as Assistant Director in community relations shortly after. Abdelnour’s dedication to the public sector was obvious for all to see, and in 1977, out of dozens of candidates, he was elected almost unanimously to be San Diego’s City Clerk.
As City Clerk of the seventh largest city in the U.S., Abdelnour was recognized for his skill and innovation. In a historic advent, he redefined the U.S. voting system, rewrote our election law, and earned international fame by pioneering the “all-mail” ballot. Having drafted and championed the legislation, Abdelnour importantly created a more efficient voting method that expanded the ability to vote to many of those who were once precluded either by distance from the polling center, or cost associated with getting there.
Abdelnour also served an important role in moving city government into the digital age and advancing government commitment to transparency and the principal of freedom of information by making important public documents available on the internet for all to access.
An long time supporter of the Arab American Institute since its founding in 1985, Chuck continues to remain an important figure through his involvement in several associations, including the State Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, the San Diego County Voting Systems Task Force, the Mayor’s Election Task Force, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Spanish Speaking Political Association, the Union of Pan Asian Communities, the Senior Citizens Medical Clinic, serving on the Board of Francis Parker School, and as Vice President of San Diego’s State University’s Alumni. He is also the founder and chair of St. George’s Orthodox Antiochian Church.
In the 1990’s, Abdelnour was assigned twice as honorary delegate to the Republican Convention. In 1999, he was named the Leukemia Society of America’s “Man of the Year” and in 2000 was awarded the Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International. In 2000, the Arab American Institute awarded Abdelnour for lifetime achievement in public and community service. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee awarded him the Alex M. Odeh award for Freedom of Speech and Justice. In 2004, he earned Sigma Chi Fraternity’s highest recognition for achievement.
Serving as San Diego’s longest reigning city clerk, Abdelnour stepped down from his position in 2005 after 28 years of city government. Although out of his city clerk office, his true dedication to people endures as he continues to touch those around him by his genuine desire to help others. He currently lives in Bay Ho, California, with his wife Christine.
Read more stories about Arab immigrants and their descendants on the "Together We Came" main page.