Businessman supported and funded numerous projects in Taft

Local businessman, civic leader and philanthropist Bob Hampton passed away Wednesday.

The owner of Westside Waste Management, Hampton personally led -- and often generously funded -- many community and civic projects.

From community cleanups to fireworks shows, the Oilworker Monument and the founding of the Westside Health Care Foundation, Hampton gave generously to Taft and the Westside.

He even started a business, Gorilla Demolition, that spearheaded the drive to tear down old houses and cleanup up neighborhood, even donning a gorilla suit to publicize the efforts.

He called himself the "number one cheerleader for education in Kern County" and served many years on the Kern High School District Board and led the formation of the Taft College Foundation.

He was inducted into both the Taft Union High School and Taft College Hall of Fames as well as the Bob Elias Hall of Fame.

A gifted athlete, Hampton was the center on the 1956 Taft High valley championship basketball team, which beat Edison of Fresno.

He played football and basketball at Taft College, then moved on to USC on a basketballs scholarship.

After his playing days were over, he became a a high school teacher and coach before getting into the waste management business in 1983 where he prospered over the next 37 years.

Reaction to his passing was swift and heartfelt.

"Bob Hampton was one of a kind," said Kern County Supervisor David Couch. "He was a great guy who truly cared about the people he served. He was successful, but humble. He would give you the shirt off his back and he didn’t want any credit or recognition. He did so much for so many, often without anyone’s knowledge. Bob was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known. Kern County lost one of its best in his passing."

Taft Mayor Dave Noerr called Hampton "A great man to do business with. His handshake was worth seven figures on any day. We are all blessed to have spent time with Bob."

Former Bakersfield City Councilman Mark Salvaggio worked with Hampton as an aide to Couch.

"We lost a giant of person, a man of sterling character and integrity.  Words cannot describe how wonderfully generous Bob Hampton was to the Westside," Salvaggio said.

Assemblyman Vince Fong paid tribute, too.

"Bob was a dedicated and generous servant to the Westside community, a loving family man, and a brilliant businessman," Fong said. "I could always count on Bob to give me wise counsel, no matter the challenge, and his passing leaves a tremendous legacy for us to model our lives after. An inspiration to us all, we will miss him greatly, and we send our prayers and condolences to his family.”