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The IAMLA Announces a Generous Gift from
The Capozzola Family
The Carl Anthony and Judy Capozzola Family
of Palos Verdes Estates, California,
made a major gift to the IAMLA
and has joined the Museum's
elite cadre of donors known as the
Founding Families

The IAMLA’s Founding Family designation was created as a way to recognize individuals and families whose dedication, generosity, and achievements qualify them for distinction.

The officer at the recruiting station examined the young enlistee who stood before him. “Capozzola, age 19… It says here you want to fly jets, and judging by your psychological evaluation, you’re a risk taker who thinks he will never fail. Is that true?” Carl Anthony Capozzola, best known as Tony, paused for a moment, reflecting on the officer’s observation. As he opened his mouth to respond, one of Tony’s earliest memories flooded his mind. It was 1941, the United States was at war, and the people of Pueblo, Colorado, still shaken by the Great Depression, prayed for their many loved ones serving overseas. Tony knew little about the trials of the outside world. As his mother held him close, singing a Sicilian lullaby, and the warm, inviting scents of his grandmother’s cooking filled the home, Tony fell sound asleep.

“Dormi bambino bello

Sta ninna nanna ch'io ti canto

Non t'a scordari più."

Tony Capozzola as a young recruit.

Located at the confluence of the Arkansas and Fountain rivers, the southern Colorado town of Pueblo was founded as a trading post by mulatto trader James Beckwourth in 1842. Over a two-hundred-year period, the flags of France, Spain, Mexico, Texas, and the United States flew over Pueblo. The settlement’s cultural pluralism—Anglo trappers and frontiersmen lived alongside Hispano ranchers, Native American traders, and Mexican soldiers—foretold the multiculturalism that would characterize its later incarnation as the city of Pueblo.

Early 1900s view of North Main Street in Pueblo.

The arrival of the railroad in the 1870s and the establishment of Pueblo’s steelworks led to the town’s rapid urbanization. By the 1890s, Pueblo—rich in iron ore, limestone, and coal—had become a center for the mining, smelting, and steel industries. The city’s boosters championed Pueblo’s transformation into the “Pittsburgh of the West,” a dream that soon materialized. By the late 1800s, the city was home to four smelters, including Meyer Guggenheim’s Philadelphia Smelting and Refining Company. Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CF&I), located on the south side of Pueblo and owned by the Rockefeller family, had become the state’s leading producer of coal and coke, as well as the largest steel mill west of the Mississippi River. The only integrated steel mill west of St. Louis, CF&I produced 75 percent of Colorado's coal, and employed upwards of 20,000 people, which equated to approximately 10 percent of the state’s workforce.

Colorado Fuel & Iron Pueblo in the late 1800s.
Courtesy of the Pueblo County Historical Society.

As the twentieth century neared, Pueblo had become the nation’s top refiner of gold, silver, zinc, and lead. The names of Southern Colorado cities such as Bessemer, Leadville, and Cokedale speak to the lasting imprint such industries left on the state, while the nation’s skylines and railroads, and twentieth-century America’s industrial might, trace their existence in part to the working people of Pueblo. With the assistance of padroni, or labor agents, CF&I and other companies launched extensive campaigns to recruit a labor force of European immigrants to work in its mines and mills. Of the company’s foreign-born employees, Italians—primarily Sicilians, Calabrese, and Abruzzese—were the majority. Enticed by “free” railroad tickets and the promise of a better life, many of Pueblo’s Italians entered the United States through the Port of New Orleans and Galveston, in addition to popular portals, such as New York’s Ellis Island. 

CF& I steelworkers circa 1900, top; a CF&I steelworker in front of an open hearth furnace, bottom.
Courtesy of the Steelworks Center of the West.

The Capozzola, Passanante, and Luppino families were among those drawn to Pueblo’s mines and mills. In 1897, after the death of his father at the age of 43, Antonio Capozzola accepted a four-year work contract in the United States to help support his mother and siblings, the youngest of whom had been born a few months after his father’s passing. Following the contract’s completion, Antonio returned to his native Corleto Monforte, in the province of Salerno, Campania, and proposed to his longtime love, Nicoletta Sudano. With the promise that he would send for her after establishing himself in the United States, Antonio settled in Pueblo.

The Capozzola family- Seated at center are Antonio and Nicoletta. The couple’s seven children are pictured left to right (back row) Grace, Nick, Dominick, Carmen, and Josephine (front row)
Sarah and Rose.

Within a year, Antonio’s frugality, coupled with the fifteen-hour shifts he worked in front of CF&I’s open-hearth furnace, had enabled him to purchase passage for Nicoletta. On July 3, 1902, the couple was married at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, a parish built by Pueblo’s Italian immigrants. In their 700-square-foot home on 918 Currie Street, not far from the Arkansas River, Nicoletta gave birth to eight children, seven of whom would live to adulthood.

Interior (below) and exterior (above) of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Pueblo, which was constructed by Italian immigrants.

To ease their transition to American life and to support one another in times of need, Pueblo’s immigrants formed mutual aid societies, fraternal organizations, and clubs. Among Pueblo’s Italian mutual benevolent societies were the Sicilian Lodge, established in 1899, St. Joseph Lodge, and the Order of Sons of Italy in America Principessa Iolanda Lodge, whose entirely female membership comprised women primarily from the village of Lucca Sicula, Sicily. Pueblo’s vibrant ethnic enclaves included Bessemer, which was largely Slovenian, Croatian, Dalmatian, and Italian.

Above: The Sacred Heart of Jesus Society in Pueblo; Nicoletta Capozzola is pictured in the top row,
fourth from left. Below: An Italian woman bakes bread in Goat Hill. 

The downtown district near the Arkansas River, as well as St. Charles Mesa, and Goat Hill, was predominantly Italian. In Pueblo’s Lower East Side and the neighborhood known as Smelter, Italians and Mexicans coexisted. Pueblo’s immigrants recreated the social structures of their homelands in the city’s ethnic enclaves. The Italian women of Pueblo planted gardens, and baked bread in large, bee-shaped communal ovens. For every household chore, the women agreed upon the day of the week when it would be completed and would then perform the task together.

As the city’s ethnic communities grew and nativism made its way to southern Colorado, Pueblo became a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity. With 55,000 members in local chapters, Colorado was second only to Indiana in its number of Klansmen, and Pueblo’s ethnic Catholics were the group’s primary targets. Klansmen attacked Catholic priests at two local churches, and on Christmas Day, 1923, the Klan burned six crosses around the city. Earlier that year, a thousand Klansmen, dressed in full regalia, burnt a forty-foot cross on Pueblo’s north side. The Klan operated with impunity in Colorado; proudly listed in Pueblo’s city directory, the Klan was anything but a secret organization. In the 1920s, the state’s governor, Clarence Morley, was a Klansman, as were Pueblo’s Methodist and Baptist ministers.

Klan members riding a Ferris wheel in Canyon City, Colorado.
Courtesy of the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.

Perhaps in response to the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the time and the Klan’s “100 percent Americanism” crusade, the Italians of Pueblo organized to reclaim Christopher Columbus, then widely regarded as a hero and the nation’s founder, as one of their own. The Italians of Pueblo, in cooperation with the city’s Mexican and Spanish communities, established the first monument dedicated to the explorer west of the Mississippi River, pictured right. It was unveiled in 1905, and the following year, Colorado became the first state to declare Columbus Day a holiday.

Columbus Monument in Pueblo, Colorado.

For the Capozzola family, success in America rested on the pillars of hard work and family. Antonio and Nicoletta Capozzola’s first-born son, Dominick, quit school at age 14 to contribute to the family’s support. Joining his father, employee number 5252, and the scores of Italian and Italian Americans at CF&I, Dominick, who then stood only five feet tall and weighed 97 pounds, worked in the coal mines as a “door boy.” The job, typically reserved for children, involved sitting in complete darkness underground for up to twelve hours, waiting for coal cars to arrive at the mine’s trap doors. Door boys, or “trappers” as they were also known, opened and closed the mineshaft doors to allow the coal cars to pass in and out. This system was believed to control the flow of air and noxious gases, and to contain explosions. With Dominick’s help, the Capozzola family purchased a slightly larger home on Elm Street, directly across from the Passanante home and grocery store. The street reflected the character of its largely Italian population. Residents would gather in the evening for bocce matches and to sip homemade wine while playing musical instruments and chatting about the day’s events. Although their three-bedroom, two-story, home was far from extravagant, ownership provided the Capozzola family a sense of independence and pride.

The former Passanante family home and grocery (left) and the former Capozzola family home on
Elm Street as they appear today.

After learning about the many job opportunities in Pueblo from his best friend, Dominick Luppino, Catherine’s father, Calogero “Carlo” Passanante, left his native Campobello di Mazara, Sicily, a town that has been inhabited since the Phoenician era in Sicily, and is known for its olive oil and wine production. A monument dedicated to the Campobellesi whose lives were lost in the First and Second World Wars stands in the town square and bears the names of several members of the Passanante family.

Dominick Luppino and Carlo Passanante shortly after their arrival to the United States.

Left: Memorial to fallen Campobellesi in Sicily
Right: Tony and his son, Anthony, in Campobello di Mazara, Sicily

Arriving in 1906, Passanate worked as a brick mason at CF&I. Dominick Luppino would soon ask Passanante to send for his sister, Anna, as Luppino wished to marry her. Passanante decided that he would ask his sister’s best friend, Paolina Luppino, for her hand in marriage. Paolina agreed to come to Pueblo, provided that she be wed by proxy prior to her departure.

Carlo Passanante and Paolina Luppino
on their wedding day

After arriving at Ellis Island in 1910, Paolina sent Carlo Passanante a telegram stating that she was boarding the Missouri Pacific bound for Colorado and asked that he meet her at Union Depot in Pueblo. The entire Passanante family received Paolina upon her arrival. Carlo’s mother hosted a celebratory dinner for the family and acted as Paolina’s custodian in the days leading up to the wedding. Carlo and Paolina were married on June 25, 1910, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and lived across the street from the Luppinos.

The telegram that Paolina Luppino sent to Carlo Passanate upon her arrival to Ellis Island (above);
Union Depot in Pueblo (below)

In the years that followed, the Passanantes welcomed nine children. Their first born, Calogero, died in infancy. He was followed by Catherine, Dorotea, Carlo Jr., Jack, Joseph, Sarah, and twin boys who sadly, died shortly after their birth. To supplement Carlo’s income from the steel mills, the Passanante family established a grocery store next to their home on Elm Street. As the eldest child, Catherine Passanante assisted her mother with child rearing, gardening, and food preparation, and learned the value of hard work, determination, and self-sufficiency. The family grew grapes, cherries, and every vegetable imaginable. To ensure the family’s fig tree survived Pueblo’s snowy winter, Catherine and Paolina wrapped it in blankets and covered it with a wine barrel before the frost arrived. The Passanantes canned tomatoes grown in their garden and transformed other homegrown produce into conserve that sustained them until the next harvest.

The Passanante family- Standing in the back row, pictured left to right are Catherine, Sarah, and Dorotea. Paolina and Carlo are pictured in the middle. Crouching in the front are Jack, Joe, and Charles. 

Catherine met her future husband, Dominick Capozzola, at her father’s grocery store, which Dominick, who was eight years her senior, frequently visited to purchase Italian cigars. Regional divisions in the Italian community, or campanillismo, persisted in Pueblo well into the twentieth century. Dominick, whose parents were born in Corleto Monforte, was of Campanian parentage, while Catherine was the daughter of Sicilian immigrants. Although the couple’s courtship raised eyebrows, their families consented to the union.

Advertisement and 1929 calendar for the Passanante grocery store in Pueblo

On October 2, 1932, Dominick married Catherine Passanante, and following Italian tradition, the couple named their firstborn female child after her paternal grandmother, Nicoletta. In 1938, Dominick and Catherine celebrated the birth of a second child, Carl Anthony, who, also in line with Italian custom, was named after his grandfathers.

Dominick Capozzola, fourth from left, and his bride, Catherine Passanante

The baptism register from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Pueblo recording Tony Capozzola’s baptism and his godparents, Carlo Passanante and Mary D’Orazio

Carl Anthony, who was nicknamed “Tony,” and Nicoletta, who adopted her middle name, Lucille, were raised traditionally Italian American. Their parents and grandparents were active in local organizations such as the Dante Alighieri Lodge, and the religious groups of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, including Sacred Heart of Jesus Society. The Capozzola, Passanante, and Luppino families gathered annually to make wine and opened their homes to family and neighbors for the Feast of San Giuseppe in March, during which Pueblo’s Sicilian families set elaborate altars of symbolic foods and plants in the saint’s honor. Whereas Dominick and Catherine spoke dialect to one another and to their parents, Tony and Lucille communicated in English, recognizing that Americanization and assimilation were integral to the family’s success.

Tony Capozzola, pictured right, on a Shetland pony, circa 1946. Tony later rode larger horses while competing in rodeos.

Below: Tony and Lucille Capozzola attend a birthday party during World War II for a neighborhood chum. Instead of the customary presents, attendees brought the birthday boy Defense Savings Stamps.

Courtesy of the Steelworks Center
of the West.

The family’s ethnic heritage was particularly evident at the dinner table. The Capozzola family raised chickens and goats while Grandma Paolina Passanante’s recipes were legendary. Her Lupini beans, eggplant, homemade sausage, and froscia (the Sicilian version of a frittata, which is similar to an omelette) made with home-grown asparagus and bell peppers were among her much-loved dishes. It was not uncommon for Tony to watch his mother, grandmothers, and aunts making pasta for hours at a time, laying it out to dry on sheets draped over the dinner table.

Members of the Passanante, Luppino, Capozzola, and Disipio families, including Joseph and Paolina Passanante (first and second from left). Nicoletta Lucille Capozzola stands in front of Paolina. Dorotea Passanante Disipio, holds her daughter, Connie, and Catherine Capozzola, holds her son, Tony. Dominick Capozzola is pictured far right.

Tony and Lucille learned the value of hard work and perseverance. After leaving school at age 14 to help support his family, Dominick enrolled in college correspondence courses. He traveled to Chicago where he eventually earned a degree in electrical engineering. Upon his return to Pueblo, Dominick established a company, Capozzola Electric, while maintaining his position at CF&I. During the Depression, Dominick pooled money with family members to purchase abandoned homes for as little as $20. He would then plumb, plaster, and install new electrical wiring and flooring before re-selling or gifting the houses to family members. Dominick later built, from the ground up, what became the family’s longtime home on Oakland Avenue in Pueblo, pictured below. Catherine assisted with the home’s construction, melting lead for pipes and pulling wires through conduit.  Decades later, Catherine established Cappy’s Small World Travel Agency, and led tours across the globe, which was then relatively unheard of for women. Catherine, who established an endowment at the University of Southern Colorado for Business and Italian Studies, did not believe in a “glass ceiling,” nor did her daughter, Lucille, who later established a travel agency of her own in Denver. 

Dominick Capozzola, below, and his diploma from Chicago Engineering Works, (above).
Below Right: The house Dominick built with Catherine’s help in 1948 in Pueblo. Tony and his childhood friend Tom Clementi and Clementi’s wife, Bobbi, still own the residence.

For Tony, growing up in Pueblo provided a sense of safety and security that shaped the core of his identity. The entire neighborhood felt like family. Tony spent his childhood playing with local kids, often creating more than his share of mischief. Tony graduated from Pueblo Catholic High School and continued his studies at the local junior college before enlisting in the Marines in 1958. “You’re a risk taker who believes he will never fail,” said the Marines’ examiner. Tony nodded in agreement. “That’s true,” he replied. The confidence instilled in Tony by his upbringing would enable him to face challenges without flinching, including three attempts made on his life early in his career.

Tony, pictured in the second row, fourth from right (number 14), played Lacrosse while in college and worked at the popular college Tavern, the Sink. For the bar’s 90th anniversary in 2013, it painted a mural of Tony in his Lacrosse uniform on one of its walls. 

After completing his military service, Tony enrolled in the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he double majored in criminology and psychology. Shortly before his graduation with honors, Tony received a letter from the Los Angeles County Probation Department.

The Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education had published an article Tony authored on criminal law and juvenile delinquency, which captured the probation department’s interest. They offered Tony a position as a juvenile gang worker with the agency’s South Central Branch. Charged with establishing a rapport with delinquent youth and connecting them with services and alternatives to gang life, Tony accepted the offer and moved west. While working as a probation officer in the Watts district of Los Angeles, Tony decided to pursue a law degree. On the same day Tony received his acceptance letter to Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, he was introduced to his future wife, Judy Cameron, at a university alumni mixer.

Born in Monterey Park, California, Judy attended the University of Colorado and worked as an accountant for a large corporation. The couple dated for five years while Tony attended law school in the evening and worked as a probation officer during the day. As his graduation day neared, Tony knew it was time to propose. He asked Judy to marry him, and the wedding preparations began.

Tony, pictured second from left, on the day of his law school graduation, with his then fiancé, Judy, and parents, Catherine and Dominick. 

While working for the county, Tony met Superior Court Judge Mario Clinco, who was then the presiding judge of Santa Monica. Voted Trial Judge of the Year twice during his twenty-year tenure on the bench, Clinco was a revered magistrate.

Clinco offered Tony valuable, often fatherly, guidance. He suggested Tony work as a prosecutor before pursuing a career as a criminal defense attorney. At times, Clinco was brutally honest with Tony, expressing doubt that he would receive a job offer from the district attorney’s office because he had not attended a top-tier law school. The demands of Tony’s job at the probation office, coupled with mounting financial pressures, had led him to transfer from the esteemed Loyola Law to a lower-ranking school, where he completed his law degree.

Judge Mario Clinco, pictured in 1957, fourth from right, holding a proclamation issued by the Los Angeles City Council in observance of Columbus Day. Also pictured are Councilman Earle Baker, Councilman James Corman, Councilman Ernest Debs, Blase Bonpane, Michael G. Monteleone and Angelo Pirri of Federated Italo Americans. 

On Saturday, May 31, 1969, the day Tony and Judy were to be married, a letter arrived at his home in Playa del Rey. Tony knew that the correspondence, addressed to him from the State Bar of California, contained his future. Surrounded by his father, whom he had chosen to be his best man, his mother, and other family members who had traveled from Colorado for the wedding, one hour before he was to be married, Tony received the news that he had passed the bar exam and would soon be sworn in as an attorney.

Above: Tony and Judy on their wedding day; Below: Pictured from left, Catherine and Dominick Capozzola, Lucille Capozzola Kenworthy, Tony Capozzola, Paolina Passanante, Judy Capozzola, and Tony’s aunt Sarah Coffee. In front are Lucille’s husband, Judge William Kenworthy, and the couple’s daughter, Kathryn, and son, Will.

On his first day back at work, Tony carried a case of pineapples that he had purchased on his honeymoon in Hawaii and visited the courtrooms of the judges he had worked with, none of whom were aware he had passed the bar. Tony opened the doors to their courtrooms and exclaimed, “Nobody budge, here comes the judge!” as he rolled the pineapple down the aisle towards the judge’s bench. Later that day, Tony was summoned to Judge Clinco’s chambers. “You are nuttier than a fruitcake,” snapped Judge Clinco, shaking his head in admonishment, “but you have a lot of skills, and I think you can achieve great things. I want you to apply for the position of deputy district attorney.” Tony was shocked. “I will be competing against guys who attended Harvard, and all the best schools in the country!” he countered. Judge Clinco interjected, “I’m telling you what to do,” and waved him away.

Tony Capozzola, then a prosecutor, in conference with Judge Birch Donahue and attorney
Michael Minchella.

Tony applied for the position and was called for an interview. Just as he suspected, Tony discovered that the eight other hopeful candidates he sat alongside in the waiting room had attended Yale, NYU, Stanford, and other premier schools. Even the suits they wore were superior to his, observed a crestfallen Tony. He noticed one of the other candidates was staring at him quizzically. “I haven’t seen you here before,” the applicant said. “From 78 interviewees we have been whittled down to eight, and I haven’t seen you on any of the call backs.” Unsure how to respond, the door to the waiting room opened, and Tony was summoned for an interview. Sitting at the table were representatives of the United States Attorney’s Office and public defender’s office, and deputy district attorney Joe Bush. Well-versed in criminal law, Tony had prepared responses for the myriad of probable questions the panel could have for him. The district attorney was the first to speak. “Whatsa you name?” he inquired in a feigned Italian accent, to which Tony responded incredulously, “Tony Capozzola.” The district attorney looked down at Tony’s file and shook his head. “You got that wrong; it says here your name is Carl.” As Tony started to explain that although his birth name was Carl Anthony he was always referred to simply as Tony, the district attorney dismissed him. 

A confused and dejected Tony collected his belongings and turned to leave, attempting to make sense of what had transpired. Out of the corner of his eye, Tony noticed the district attorney’s assistant beckon him to her desk. “Report to Deputy District Attorney Devich at the East Los Angeles office,” she instructed Tony. Thoroughly bewildered, Tony responded, “Am I getting a call back?” “No,” the assistant replied, as she handed Tony an identification card and badge. “You’re hired.”

The Capozzola family in 1997, from left, Dominick, Damian, Judy, Tony, Dante, Anthony, and Christina.

Tony won his first jury trial and many more successes followed. His excellent track record led him to be assigned to major cases, including the organized crime task force. By that time, Tony and Judy had been blessed with children, and it became increasingly clear that a public servant’s salary would not provide the life he envisioned for his wife and children. Tony decided to establish a private practice as a defense attorney.

Members of the International Longshoremen and Warehousemen's Union were among his early clients, and, before long, the list would grow to include professional athletes and sports organizations, as well as NFL Hall of Fame coach George Allen, National Baseball Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, and entertainer Michael Jackson. Although his calendar contained as many as one hundred cases each month, Tony did not advertise his services. His clients retained him based on his reputation.

Damian Capozzola, Tony and Judy’s eldest child (first row, second from left), meets Pope John Paul II during a family vacation to Italy in the early 1980s.

Despite his hectic schedule, Tony remained dedicated to his family. He coached his children’s sports teams, and the family traveled together, to Italy, the family’s vacation home in South Lake Tahoe, and elsewhere.

Left: Tony’s calendar for November 1982, containing over 100 cases in a single month.
Right: Tony with the late Michael Jackson after his acquittal in 2005. 

One afternoon in 1977, Tony’s office phone rang. His secretary answered and buzzed Tony’s line. “Judge Clinco is on the phone.” Tony, immersed in a particularly stressful case, directed his assistant to take a message. Seconds later, Tony’s line buzzed again. “Judge Clinco wants to speak with you,” she insisted, “and says he’s not interested in leaving a message. He told me to remind you, ‘Whatsa you name?’” Tony paused. “Patch him through.”

Once on the line, Judge Clinco outlined his plan for creating a group that would be known as the Italian American Lawyers Association for the purposes of combating negative stereotypes of Italian Americans. The organization would also increase their representation among the judiciary and provide a voice for members of the profession while cultivating new talent. Judge Clinco asked prominent family law attorney Michael Angelo Pontrelli, the son of bandleader Pete Pontrelli, to attend the first meeting of the formation committee, which was being held the following week in Judge Clinco’s chambers. Paul Caruso, who represented many celebrities, including Ava Gardner and Zsa Zsa Gabor, was also in attendance, along with Eugene Damiano, and August “Gene” Carloni.

The founders of the Italian American Lawyers Association (left to right) Michael Angelo Pontrelli, August “Gene” Carloni, Paul Caruso, Eugene Damiano, Tony Capozzola, and Judge Mario Clinco, seated.

“You represent different parts of the city, and various specialties within the legal community,” Judge Clinco told the men. “Though I realize you all lead busy lives, and rather than discuss any of the favors I have done for all of you, I have specifically chosen you to be the founders of this group.” Tony was the first to pose a question: “How are we to recruit members—simply by calling people we think are Italian?” Judge Clinco directed the men to Parker Directory of California Attorneys. “You all have a copy of the directory. Call the vowels.”

And they did. Dozens of Los Angeles and Orange County attorneys soon received letters inviting them to an organization meeting held on April 17, 1977 at the Beverly Hills home of Paul Caruso. Nearly fifty attorneys attended, and the Italian American Lawyers Association was born. A few months later, after a long evening that involved multiple hands of blackjack, shots of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and lobbying at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Tony procured a generous donation from Frank Sinatra to establish a political action committee that would infuse life into the group and help it achieve its stated goals.

Tony, left, with California Governor Jerry Brown, who presented Tony with an award recognizing his achievements in the legal field.

Later that year, the Italian American Lawyers Association began holding regular meetings at Casa Italiana, the parish hall of St. Peter’s Italian Church on North Broadway. The group not only established a reputation for providing exceptional speakers and lively conversation; as its members were appointed to the bench, achieved presiding judgeships, were elevated to the Courts of Appeal, obtained multi-million-dollar verdicts, and reached other important milestones, the Italian American Lawyers Association celebrated its many successes. Today, the Italian American Lawyers Association is a vibrant bar association whose meetings are frequently attended by prominent elected officials and dignitaries. The California Supreme Court attends the group’s annual meeting in December. In 2007, California Governor Jerry Brown  presented Tony with an  award recognizing his  achievements in the legal  profession including his  work with the California  Legal Aid Society, his cofounding of the  Italian American Lawyers Association and his  induction into the IALA's Hall of Fame.

A critical moment in Tony’s career came in 1979 during the Iran hostage crisis, when deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fled to the United States. Iran demanded that he be returned to stand trial for crimes he was accused of committing during his reign. When the United States rejected Iran’s extradition request, a diplomatic stand-off ensued. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days, from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981. In November 1979, Iranian students in Los Angeles began demonstrating against the United States and 136 were arrested on charges that ranged from unlawful assembly to resisting arrest.

When images surfaced revealing that some of the arrested students had sustained injuries, diplomatic relations deteriorated further. The Iranian government threatened to execute the American hostages on live television and network news broadcasted video of demonstrators in Iran chanting, “Death to America!”

Tony was asked to represent the Iranian students arrested in Los Angeles and serve as a liaison between the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the United States Attorney General, and the Iranian government. A newspaper published an image of Tony that had been edited to appear as if he was standing next to the Ayatollah Khomeini. Tony was accused of being an Iranian sympathizer, and the Capozzola family received a series of death threats. It was only after Tony was successful in obtaining the release of the Iranian students that his role in ameliorating an international crisis was understood.

Tony and Judy photographed on the Italian American Museum of

Los Angeles’ historic balcony, a feature of the building that was named in the family’s honor

In addition to his legal practice, Tony edited, and his wife, Judy, published, the California Looseleaf Search and Seizure Handbook, a subscription-based reference manual for California attorneys, judges, law libraries, and others in the legal field. For well over a decade, Judy has raised money for the international children’s charity, Smile Train, which provides free cleft lip and palate repair surgery to children in more than 85 developing countries.

Above: Tony participates in a procession of Rwanda villagers as part of a celebration of Catholic Mass. Below: Tony holds a photo given to him by the congregation of Mwiko, which is seen behind him. 

Tony continues to excel in his career. For his work representing high profile clients, Tony was selected Entertainment Attorney of the Year at the ninth annual Los Angeles Music Awards held at the House of Blues. Tony has also provided legal counsel to indigents, and won release for Pastor Arleigh Cox, who, after hiring an incompetent defense attorney, had been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to 38 years in prison. Tony has lobbied for limiting attorneys’ abilities to advertise their services to provide representation in areas of law in which they are not qualified.

The Capozzola family also supports the spiritual and economic needs of Mwiko, a community in Rwanda, Africa, that was devastated by the 1994 genocide. The Capozzola family helped fund the construction of a Roman Catholic Church, which was built by the villagers of Mwiko. More than 1500 people attend Mass at the church, which holds its services outside of the church in order to accommodate the overwhelming attendance. To ensure greater self-sufficiency among Mwiko’s residents, and ensure widespread access to electricity and clean water, plans are currently being made to provide villagers with herds of animals and the means to harvest solar energy.

Tony and Judy Capozzola have five children and, as of 2018, ten grandchildren. Their eldest son, Damian, is an attorney who recently served as president of the Italian American Lawyers Association, the organization his father co-founded nearly four decades ago. Sons Anthony and Dominick are also attorneys, while daughter Christina and son Dante earned degrees in computer science and economics, respectively.

Image from and invitation to the Capozzola family reunion, which was held on July 3, 2003, in Colorado, and celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Capozzola family’s arrival to the United States, as well as Antonio and Nicoletta Capozzola’s wedding anniversary.
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