Joseph Coors

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Joseph Coors
Born(1917-11-12)November 12, 1917
DiedMarch 15, 2003(2003-03-15) (aged 85)
Resting placeEl Camino Memorial Park, Sorrento Valley, San Diego, California[1]
EmployerCoors Brewing Company

Joseph "Joe" Coors, Sr. (November 12, 1917 – March 15, 2003), was the grandson of brewer Adolph Coors and president of Coors Brewing Company.[2]

Birth and education[edit]

Coors was born in 1917 to Alice May Kistler (1885–1970) and Adolph Coors II. His siblings include Adolph Coors III and William Coors. He graduated from Cornell University in 1939 with a degree in chemical engineering, staying to earn a master's degree in 1940. His brother Adolph Coors III and cousin Dallas Morse Coors were his classmates, and all three were members of Kappa Alpha Society and Quill and Dagger society.


He married Edith Holland "Holly" Hanson (Holly Coors) (1920–2009) in 1941 and had five sons, Jeffrey "Jeff", Joseph "Joe" Jr. (1942–2016),[3][4] Grover, John, and Peter "Pete" (born 1946).[5] He divorced Holly in 1987 after nearly 50 years of marriage. His son Jeff described him as an adulterer and a sinner.[6] He married Anne Elizabeth Drotning[1] in 1988.

Brewing career[edit]

After graduation, he began work in the Coors Porcelain Co., the porcelain business that helped the company survive Prohibition. With his brother William Coors (whose desks were located only one foot apart), Joseph refined the cold-filtered beer manufacturing system and began America's first large-scale recycling program by offering one-cent returns on Coors aluminum cans. He served one term as a regent of the University of Colorado from 1967 to 1972, attempting to quell what he considered to be campus radicalism during the Vietnam war. He served as president of Coors from 1977 to 1985, and chief operating officer from 1980 to 1988. His leadership helped expand Coors beer distribution from 11 Western states in the 1970s to the entire United States by the early 1990s.


Coors was perhaps best known for his conservative politics and a segregationist,[failed verification] including his support of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, whom he first met in Palm Springs, California in 1967. His brother William Coors once described him as "a little bit right of Attila the Hun".[7] A founding member of the conservative Washington Heritage Foundation think tank in 1973 along with Paul Weyrich and Edwin Feulner (which formulated many of Reagan's campaign ideas), Coors provided $250,000 to cover its first year budget, and $300,000/year thereafter.[7] He was also involved with the founding of the Free Congress Foundation and the Council for National Policy. He was a member of Ronald Reagan's Kitchen Cabinet after helping finance Reagan's political career as governor of California and U.S. president, and was later nominated by Reagan to sit on the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.[2]

Brewery Workers Local 366 in Golden, Colorado struck the Coors plant in August 1977. Coors continued brewery operations and replaced the striking workers who stayed out. The new workers voted to decertify the union in December 1978, officially ending the strike.[8] The strike and decertification caused a 10-year boycott of Coors by the AFL-CIO. In the aftermath of the strike Coors required new employees to take lie detector tests, which were discontinued in August 1986.[8]

In 1977 after a regional agreement prevented the movement of toxic aluminum waste from aluminum can production across adjacent state borders, Coors set up the Mountain States Legal Foundation, headed by local lawyer James G. Watt to fight the environmental constraints in the courts. Watt later became U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and appointed local attorney Anne Gorsuch as head of the Environmental Protection Agency to dismantle toxic waste disposal laws, causing an outcry that got her sacked by Reagan after 22 months, after which Watt was forced to resign for politically-insensitive remarks.

Coors was also known to have privately donated $65,000 to buy a light cargo plane for the Contras' effort in Nicaragua during Reagan's presidency. That donation went through National Security Council adviser Oliver North.[9][10]


Coors died in Rancho Mirage, California, after a three-month battle with lymphatic cancer.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Rochester Democrat & Chronicle".
  2. ^ a b c "Brewery magnate Joseph Coors dies at 85". USA Today. Associated Press. March 17, 2003. Joseph Coors, who used his brewing fortune to support President Reagan and help create the conservative Heritage Foundation, has died at age 85. Coors, whose grandfather founded Adolph Coors Co. in 1873, died Saturday in Rancho Mirage, Calif., after a three-month battle with lymphatic cancer.
  3. ^ Bartels, Lynn (22 September 2012). "Joe Coors Jr., former black sheep of family, now running for office".
  4. ^ "Joe Coors Jr., of the Coors brewing family, dies". USA Today. September 16, 2016.
  5. ^ "Joseph Coors, Sr". NNDB. Retrieved 2007-08-26.
  6. ^ STUMBO, BELLA (1988-09-18). "Brewing Controversy : Coors Clan: Doing It Their Way". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  7. ^ a b Jackson, Harold (19 March 2003). "Obituary: Joseph Coors" – via
  8. ^ a b kihm (13 May 2012). "The Coors Boycott, 1987".
  9. ^ Blanchard, William H. Neocolonialism American Style, 1960-2000. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood P, 1996.
  10. ^ Cawley, Janet; Sheppard, Nathaniel Jr. "CONTRIBUTORS TELL OF `1-2 PUNCH` FOR CONTRA AID". Chicago Tribune.