Former Governor Dick Lamm Dies at 85

Undated photo of Dick Lamm during his time as Governor of Colorado.

As The Denver Post reports:

Former three-term Colorado Gov. Richard “Dick” Lamm died Thursday night at age 85, his wife said in a statement.

Lamm would have turned 86 next week, but was surrounded by friends and family when he died of complications from a pulmonary embolism, according to wife Dottie Lamm. He had two children.

The former Democratic governor served three terms from 1975 to 1987, the longest in the state’s history, according to the National Governors Association. He also was a state representative from 1966 to 1974.

Lamm may be best known for leading an effort in the early 1970s to prevent the 1976 Winter Olympics from being hosted in Colorado. Lamm later sought the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 1992, losing to eventual Senator Ben “Nighthorse” Campbell (“Nighthorse” would later switch parties to become a Republican). In 1996, Lamm was a candidate for the Reform Party nomination for President.

Information on memorial services is not yet available.

39 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Gilpin Guy says:

    Guy left an imprint on Colorado politics but don't know if his legacy is going to be remembered fondly.  Spiking the Olympics and bashing immigrants is kind of a weird recap of a life.

    • Nonsense. He never bashed immigrants. And he will forever be a hero for spiking the Colorado Olympics. *Every* Olympics is a huge money-loser for the host city / state. Frankly, the whole corrupt organization needs to be ditched and perhaps reconstituted, and for certain the "let's build a ginormous sports venue from scratch" model needs to die.

      • CHATOCO says:

        He wrote an entire book bashing native-born Hispanics and Hispanic immigrants. He spent hours on right-wing talk radio in Denver attacking Hispanics trying to build a place in the Republican party that wanted nothing to do with him no matter how much racist drivel came out of his mouth. The end of his career was an embarrassment to any decent Coloradan. 

        • RepealAndReplace says:

          He did look a bit foolish allowing himself to be used by Ross Perot to give the Reform Party some degree of legitimacy when he "ran" against Perot in the Reform Party primary in 1996.

      • Gilpin Guy says:

        The Olympics were a huge missed opportunity for Colorado.  Compared to today's prices, the cost was minimal and the dividends would have been cumulative over many years with teams and events continuing past the Olympics.  There was also the global spirit component where young people from around the world get to meet each other and share in a once in a lifetime experience.  We blew it because people like Lamm convinced Coloradans that holding the Olympics was a bad investment.  If you look at Utah, it wasn't.  I went to the 2002 Olympics and it was a blast and they continue to use their facilities.  I never voted for Lamm and am glad I didn't.

        • Voyageur says:

          The Colorado Olympics proposal was a vast ripoff of the taxpayers for the benefit of greedhead developers.  Utah changed the rules by making them massive corporate sellouts, with corporate logos every where.  


          • harrydoby says:

            You are right V'ger.  The 2002 SLC games were in deep trouble, and it took both Federal and Corporate cash to bail them out.  Here's more from Politfact:

            Romney left Bain in early 1999 to take over leadership of the games in the aftermath of a bribery scandal that ultimately exposed years of widespread corruption by members of the International Olympic Committee and their counterparts in host cities during the bidding process used to award the games.

  2. Voyageur says:

    He was the first modern governor to seriously question the doctrine of unlimited growth.  I shall miss his humor and iconoclasm.

    • The realist says:

      Agree, V. And now here we are several decades later and unlimited growth is doing us in, from massive traffic problems across the state, plus increasing wildfires (some human-caused and the intensity of many linked to climate change), crowding, severe lack of affordable housing around the state (not just in Denver and the resort towns). 

    • Unlimited growth has only been good for the rentier class. For regular people it has been terrible (see, "rents are unaffordable everywhere"), and will certainly destroy Colorado before it implodes. And it *will* implode; perpetual growth is a physical impossibility.

  3. Voyageur says:

    Dick wasn't the first gov I knew, which were Steve McNichols and John Love.  But he was the first I knew intimately before he took office, and just 9 years older than me.

    Now I really feel old.




  4. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    “Whitey” was a good man and will be missed. I always liked the way he was up front about issues. He never “bashed” immigrants. But he was among the first to question that this country can’t take in the untold millions of other people who want to live here, despite whatever needs they may have or issues in countries of origin.

  5. kwtree says:

    I don't know what you all think "bashing immigrants" consists of, but Lamm certainly made a speech , "I have a plan to destroy America", in which he claimed that



    Lamm would be one of the people lamenting the rise of multicultural education in schools today. He might or might not be storming school boards to protest the teaching of "critical race theory". He probably would be opposed to bilingual/ bicultural education . He probably would be opposed to teaching of English as a second language (ESL) , which I did for almost 20 years, considering it as a waste of tax dollars and catering to minorities, which should properly "sink or swim", in his opinion.

    He would be one of the people lending fuel to the white supremacist movement today.

    In the interests of not speaking ill of the dead, I'll leave it there. Proceed with your flamethrowers.



  6. Diogenesdemar says:

    My impression of Dick Lamm is that he was an intelligent and complicated man, of many simple solutions — often even popular simple solutions, but not always all that well thought out or considered — with not all that many standing the test of time.

    On the Olympics — he recognized a problem, but I still don’t know whether he was right or wrong?

    On growth issues — he recognized the problems, but chose the wrong “solution.” He would have done much better to build those systems and institutions that might properly manage the inevitable future, rather than trying simply to halt it and leaving all that important and difficult work to others and later.

    On immigration, and its benefits — he was wrong in his characterization of the issues, and dead wrong in his prescriptions.

    On the Reform Party candidacy — an aging man’s vanity.

    On the duty to die — eventually everyone will, perhaps there’s no reason to rush it?

    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more.

    He was very lucky to have had such a wonderful wife.

    Miss him?  Not really.

    Saddened by his passing?  Certainly.



  7. Republican 36 says:

    When I was young and in Republican politics I heard all these ugly anti-Lamm comments but then I had the opportunity to interact with Gov. Lamm and his staff during his third term as governor and at the end of that experience I came away with the greatest respect for him. I realize some of Gov. Lamm's views are not in line with where progressives or liberals stand today but contrary to some of the comments above, he would never lead a white nationalists movement or any other racist tact. He wasn't that type of person.

    I respected him because he was a person of his word. He was elected governor three months after Nixon resigned. A few months after he was inaugurated the Vietnam war ended. There was understandably a lot of angst in our country over the lack of honesty from our political leaders. Gov. Lamm proved to be one of the leaders who showed us a politician could be successful and maintain honesty as a hallmark of his public life. One example will suffice. In a speech he quoted a philosopher from, if my memory serves me correctly, the University of Chicago who spoke about some people have "a duty to die" if their illness is irreversible. Gov. Lamm was blasted by various political groups for quoting the philosopher but the public appreciated his honesty even if they disagreed with him. After Watergate and Vietnam, the public longed for leaders who would be straight with them.

    And politically his honesty paid great dividends. In 1982, when Gov. Lamm was running for a third term, I sat through a poll presentation conducted by Market Opinion Research which at the time was one of the leading Republican polling firms in the United States. They had conducted a baseline survey of Colorado voters in late May that year. All of the campaign managers for the Republican candidates vying for the gubernatorial nomination were present. Early in the presentation, Bob Teeter, founder of MOR, told the gubernatorial campaigns they had no chance of defeating Gov. Lamm in the general election. One of the campaign mangers became very irritated by that and asked Mr. Teeter, a very mild mannered individual, how this could be the case since the cross tabs showed 40% of Colorado voters disagreed with Gov. Lamm on most major issues. Mr. Teeter paused and then said: "None of that matters – the voters trust him."

    Then Mr. Teeter read the poll numbers. Among registered Democrats, the governor had over 90% approval rating. Among unaffiliated voters, his approval rating was over 80% and I have never forgotten the number for registered Republicans – 72% approved of Gov. Lamm. Mr. Teeter went on to tell us that in the history of polling Gov. Lamm had the highest approval rating ever recorded for a statewide leader anywhere in the United States. And the foundation for those numbers was his honesty.

    He was a good person, a good leader, and honest. We should all pause and be thankful he was our governor.

    • kwtree says:

      Dick Lamm may have been a decent and honest man. My parents liked him, and were friends with him and Dottie Lamm. 

      But he definitely had this huge blind spot on whether people of color, particularly Latinos, were intellectually equal. Re-read his own words quoted above for evidence of that.

      And I didn’t write that Lamm would personally “lead a white nationalist movement”. I wrote that he would have been one of the people lending fuel to the white supremacist movement.

      But I was wrong. It wasn’t a “would have been” thing. Dick Lamm’s words and writings absolutely were and still are lending fuel to white supremacist ideology.


      Dick Lamm praised John Tanton, founder of the anti-immigant Group FAIR (Lamm was also a FAIR member). FAIR’s ideas grounded Tom Tancredo’s later extreme anti-immigrant policies. 

        “I am an unabashed friend of John Tanton,” Lamm said. “What a mix of virtues and abilities! John is a visionary, prophet, organizational genius and a warm and caring human being. Give me a thousand John Tantons and we could save the world.”

      Dick Lamm repealed the Bilingual Education Act in 1981,  receiving criticism from fellow Democrats and setting back the education of Latino kids in Colorado for years. But white supremacists praised him for it. 

      The Sierra Club rejected Lamm and two other “Progressives for Immigration Reform” candidates for the Sierra Club Board. 

      Lamm had money ties to white nationalist groups. 

      R36, I respect you more than others who regularly resort to (noun verb AOC) in an effort to provoke an insult fest. Feel free to mourn Richard Lamm. But see him for who he was…the whole picture.


    • MichaelBowman says:

      Thanks for that summation, R36. I was young and not particularly political in Lamm’s era; it was Gov Romer and his ‘Dome on the Range’ initiative when I started to pay attention. I enjoyed your perspective shared from personal experience. 

  8. RepealAndReplace says:

    Like most folks, there were issues on which I agreed with Dick Lamm and issues on which I did not.

    But to claim that he "would be one of the people lending fuel to the white supremacist movement today,” as La Pomposa did, was a bit over the top, even for her. 

    Some of the folks on the left have their own alternate reality where asking someone if they voted in the last election, and if so, for whom amounts to "voter suppression." Voter suppression is when you try to stop someone from voting in the upcoming election.

    Or taking some comments Dick Lamm made about immigration and turning him into a white supremacist enabler. KW, we get it, you didn't like the guy. But why don't you criticize the guy with the facts as they exist instead of extrapolating…..


    • kwtree says:

      The facts are what they are. Lamm’s views on immigration, his opposition to bilingual and multicultural education, are well documented in Lamm’s own words and deeds. That will forever be a part of his legacy, whether you like it or not. 

      Perhaps Lamm never meant his writings to be used by people like Tom Tancredo and other idealogues, but the Governor’s eyes were surely open to the missions of organizations such as FAIR , PFIR , Defend Colorado Now, and the Pioneer Fund. Lamm’s  ideas of Latino laziness and unworthiness, the suspicion and prejudice, the money and anti-immigration poicies, flowed both ways. 

      And in twenty years of teaching Latino and immigrant and English Learner children and adults, I have seen the real harm and hurt that these policies and ideas have done to students. People have dropped out, given up, been sucked into the school to prison pipeline. Families have been broken up and lives ruined. Lamm contributed to that, whether or not that was his intention. 

      I’d suggest that if you truly respect Dick Lamm and want to leave his memorial thread unsullied, start another thread. It can be all you and your grudges and complaints about me, or other progressives. You can name drop AOC more than Empty G does. . V can  indulge his Valkyrie fetish. Actually, it will be all you guys,  because I’m done with this.

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