Historian, Archivist, Titan
1959 – 2019
Orange County lost one of its most prominent historians and community members on December 12th, 2019. Phillip K. Brigandi is a household name to many in both Orange and Riverside counties, and his passing left a void in the local history community. Although gone, he left behind over thirty published books, countless articles for newspapers, magazines, and journals, and served as editor on multiple publications. His passing has also triggered the community to celebrate his life and reflect on his contributions to the field of history.
Phil obtained his bachelor’s of history at CSU Fullerton in 1987. We felt it appropriate to highlight Brigandi’s life and remember him as he was – a native to Orange County, a passionate historian, and of course, a fellow Titan.
To learn more about Phil Brigandi, we invite you to the Pollak Library’s 3rd Floor South to view our display outside of University Archives (Room PLS-352).
Orange County, Born and Raised
Phil Brigandi was born and raised in the city of Orange in 1959. His love of history began in elementary school, and took shape as a teenager when he began researching and writing. In high school, he compiled stories about Orange High School and recorded memories of older people in the community.
He joined the Orange Community Historical Society while completing high school, and was elected to its board of directors at 18 years old. During his late teen years, he became a regular contributor to historical columns in local newspapers and began writing lengthier pieces by 19. At just 23 years old, Brigandi published his first book about the Orange Plaza.
Phil Brigandi was a lifelong boy scout. He became an Eagle Scout at a young age, and was very committed to the organization. He especially enjoyed the Lost Valley Boy Scout Camp near Palomar Mountain, where he was once a staff member and eventually manager of the camp. He continued volunteering there each summer for over thirty years.
The Boy Scouts of America posthumously presented Phil with the Silver Beaver Award in January.
The Hemet Years
Phil obtained his bachelor’s degree in history from right here at California State University, Fullerton. With guidance from Dr. Art Hansen, he graduated in 1987.
In 1990, Phil became the Museum Curator of the Ramona Pageant in Hemet, California. The pageant is an outdoor stage performance based on Helen Hunt Jackson’s famous California romance, Ramona. He held this position for 13 years, writing over ten books during that time.
Orange County Archivist
After over a decade living away from his home, Phil returned to Orange County in 2003 to take up the post of County Archivist for the Orange County Archives. Located in the historic Santa Ana courthouse, Phil turned the archives into a welcoming place for locals and researchers. Although he held the position for only five years, he left a lasting mark in the county’s central archives facility.
Phil left his post at the County Archives in 2008, but his work did not stop there. He continued to write books and articles, maintained his role as a Boy Scouts volunteer, and remained a beloved speaker and guest at local events. Just weeks before his death, he was beginning work on a new book about the Portola Expedition, which would have been his first published work about a statewide event.
Phil approached local history as a calling, not just a job or even a career. He represented what it means to be truly passionate about a subject. History will remember Phil Brigandi not just for his contributions to the field of history, but for his relentless passion sharing history with others. “My brain just doesn’t make the connection between the work I do and the pay I get. I just do what I do, the best way I know how.” -Phil Brigandi
This display was designed and built by Nick Seider, with assistance from the following sources:Yarbrough, Beau. Historian of Hemet’s ‘Ramona,’ Phil Brigandi, dies at 60. Press Enterprise. December 17, 2019.Jespen, Chris. In Memorium: Phil Brigandi 1959-2019. County Courier (Vol. 51, No. 1), January 2020.Park, Jeong. Historian Phil Brigandi, who spent decades constructing Orange County’s story, dies. Orange County Register, December 17, 2019. Phil Brigandi 1959-2019. Foothills Sentry, January 2020. Images provided by Chris Jespen.