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Former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm dies at 85

Dick Lamm, Chris Dempsey
Posted at 8:59 AM, Jul 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-06 08:35:29-04

Former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm has died, according to a statement from his wife released on July 30.

Former First Lady of Colorado Dottie Lamm said her husband passed away the evening of July 29.

"He would have turned 86 next Tuesday but passed away yesterday evening surrounded by his family, following complications from a pulmonary embolism earlier in the week," Dottie Lamm said in the statement.

A public memorial service and celebration of his life is scheduled for Aug. 31 at 3:30 p.m. at Wings Over the Rockies Museum, located at 7711 E. Academy Boulevard in Denver. Doors open at 3 p.m.

Dick Lamm served as three-term governor from 1975 to 1987. He became a state legislator in the 1960s, where he passed the nation's first liberalized abortion law.

He also led the charge to move the 1976 Olympics out of Colorado after it was awarded to the state. Colorado voters had rejected hosting the Games due to concerns about the financial and environmental impact after Denver was awarded the Winter Games.

After leaving his position as governor, he went into teaching and served as a co-director of the Center for Public Policy and Contemporary Issues at the University of Denver.

He entered the presidential race as a Reform Party candidate in 1996. While he lost the nomination, he said he was proud of what he achieved in his political career.

In an October 2017 interview with Denver7's Politics Unplugged, Lamm said he said the state had experienced growth issues and is "slowly becoming the Los Angeles of the Rockies. I mourn that." He said the traffic, smog, and congestion had all been getting worse in the prior years and he hoped officials would step up to change that.

"We did the best we could and I'm proud of the people who we brought into office," he said of his time as governor. "...I'm very proud of my legacy, but are there things we would (have) done different? ... I wish I could have made more progress in trying to do better land-use plannings in the Front Range."

Colorado officials react to Lamm's passing

Current Colorado Gov. Jared Polis ordered flags lowered at state buildings across the state on the day of the service.
“I’m very saddened to hear about the passing of former Gov. Dick Lamm and send my condolences to Dottie and his entire family," Polis said in a statement. "I thank Gov. Lamm for his service to the state of Colorado both as governor and his many years teaching. Gov. Lamm took on tough issues, and he never shied away from civil political discourse and embraced collaboration. Gov. Lamm’s legacy and leadership will be remembered in our state’s history as well as his work to make Colorado an even more amazing place.”

Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock said he always admired the former governor, noting that his leadership was "transformational" for the state.

"He ushered in a commitment to the environment that lives with us today," he wrote in a tweet. "He was an original policy thinker, innovative and direct in his communication. We are in a better place for his leadership."

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said he was saddened to hear the news and found Lamm a "fascinating public figure."

"He was politically fearless, articulating positions that weren’t embraced by the general public or, in many cases, by members of his own political party," Suthers said in a statement. "Also, I don’t think I’ve ever met a politician who was so candid about his mistakes. He even once confessed to a Bar Association group that he put 'too many liberals' on the State Supreme Court. He called himself an 'idiot' for opposing the construction of C-470 around Denver. Dick Lamm was a statesman, and we need more people like him.”

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said Lamm loved Colorado, and the state has lost an important leader.

“Governor Lamm — as a teacher, elected official, and leader — touched so many lives and served our state with great distinction. My thoughts go out to Dottie and his family. I will miss his support and friendship. His memory will live on as a blessing.”

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet said Lamm was a visionary leader.

"His independent thinking, innovative spirit, and commitment to service embodied all the best qualities of Colorado," he said. "He loved our state and devoted his life to making it better. Susan and I express our deepest condolences to Dottie and his family during this difficult time.”

Colorado House Speaker Alec Garnett said Lamm was a towering presence in the state's politics and made it his life's work to protect its natural treasures.

"He leaves behind a legacy of dedication and hard work, and while we didn’t always agree, I appreciated his mentorship and have always respected and admired Gov. Lamm enormously," he said.

Majority Leader Daneya Esgar added that his heartfelt condolences go out to Lamm's family.

"Gov. Lamm was a public servant who knew how to reach across the aisle and put people over politics without compromising on his values," he said. "Despite the enormous loss that we feel today, Gov. Lamm’s legacy of straight talking, hard working, and no-nonsense public service is alive and well.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.