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Richard Lamm

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Richard Lamm
38th Governor of Colorado
In office
January 14, 1975 – January 13, 1987
LieutenantGeorge L. Brown
Nancy E. Dick
Preceded byJohn Vanderhoof
Succeeded byRoy Romer
Personal details
Richard Douglas Lamm

(1935-08-03)August 3, 1935
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedJuly 29, 2021(2021-07-29) (aged 85)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Other political
Reform (1996)
(m. 1963)
EducationUniversity of Wisconsin, Madison (BA)
University of California, Berkeley (JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1957–1959
RankFirst Lieutenant

Richard Douglas Lamm (August 3, 1935 – July 29, 2021) was an American politician, writer, and attorney. He served three terms as 38th Governor of Colorado as a Democrat (1975–1987) and ran for the Reform Party's nomination for President of the United States in 1996. Lamm was a Certified Public Accountant and was the Co-Director of the Institute for Public Policy Studies at the University of Denver.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Richard Douglas Lamm was born on August 3, 1935, in Madison, Wisconsin, the son of Mary Louise (Townsend) and Edward Arnold Lamm, a coal company executive.[2][3][4][5] He graduated from Mt Lebanon Sr. High School[6] near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he majored in accounting.[7] Lamm spent his college summers working as a lumberjack in Oregon, a stockboy in New York, and helping out on an ore boat.[citation needed] Lamm graduated from college in 1957, then served one year of active duty as a first lieutenant in the United States Army at Fort Carson in Colorado and Fort Eustis in Virginia until switching to reserve duty in 1958.[citation needed]

From 1958 to 1960 Lamm lived in Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Berkeley, holding jobs as an accountant, tax clerk, and a law clerk.[8]

Lamm attended law school at the University of California, graduated in 1961, then moved to Denver in 1962, where he worked as an accountant and then set up a law practice. Lamm took to the Colorado lifestyle, becoming an avid skier, mountain climber, hiker, and member of the Colorado Mountain Club. He joined the faculty of the University of Denver in 1969 and has been associated with the University ever since.[9]

In 1963 he married Dottie Vennard, a former airline flight attendant.[10] In 1998 she won the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate from Colorado, but lost in the general election to incumbent Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell.[11]

Lamm was selected as one of Time Magazine's "200 Young Leaders of America" in 1974,[12] and won the Christian Science Monitor "Peace 2020" essay in 1985.[citation needed] In 1992, he was honored by the Denver Post and Historic Denver, Inc. as one of the "Colorado 100" - people who made significant contributions to Colorado and made lasting impressions on the state's history.[citation needed] Lamm was the recipient of the 1993 Humanist of the Year award from the American Humanist Association.[13] He was Chairman of the Pew Health Professions Commission and a public member of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.[14]

Political activities[edit]

Colorado House of Representatives[edit]

In 1964 he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives as a Democrat from Denver. In 1967, he drafted and succeeded in passing the nation's first liberalized abortion law.[15] He was an early leader of the environmental movement, and was President of the First National Conference on Population and the Environment.[citation needed]

In 1972, as a member of the Colorado General Assembly, Lamm led the movement against Denver's hosting of the 1976 Winter Olympics, as part of a group known as Citizens for Colorado's Future (CCF). Denver had already been awarded the games, but the movement succeeded in cutting off public funding for the games, forcing the city to cancel its hosting. Innsbruck, Austria then replaced Denver as the host.[16] Lamm's successful effort made him known statewide.[17]

Colorado governor[edit]

Lamm as Governor

Lamm ran for Governor of Colorado in 1974 on a platform to limit growth, and was elected. Reacting to the high cost of campaigning, he had walked the state in his campaign.[18]

As candidate and then governor, Lamm promised for environmental reasons to "drive a silver stake" through plans to build Interstate 470, a proposed circumferential highway around the southwest part of the Denver Metropolitan Area. However, continued development in the area led to increased congestion on surface streets, and the highway was later built, largely with state funds, as State Highway 470.[19][20]

In 1984, his outspoken statements in support of physician-assisted suicide generated controversy, specifically over his use of the phrase "we have a duty to die." Lamm later explained that he "was essentially raising a general statement about the human condition, not beating up on the elderly," and that the exact phrasing in the speech was "We've got a duty to die and get out of the way with all of our machines and artificial hearts and everything else like that and let the other society, our kids, build a reasonable life."[21] His dire predictions for the future of social security and health care ("duty to die") earned him the nickname "Governor Gloom". His views were satirized by noted folk singer Tom Paxton in January 1985.[22]

Lamm was elected Colorado governor three times. When he left office in 1987 after three terms and twelve years in the office, he was the longest-serving governor in state history (his successor, Roy Romer, matched this record).[citation needed]

Later political campaigns[edit]

In 1990, Colorado Democratic state party leaders tried to get Lamm to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. William L. Armstrong, a Republican, but Lamm declined.[citation needed] In 1992 he ran for the U.S. Senate but suffered his first political defeat. Ben Nighthorse Campbell beat him in the Democratic primary and went on to win the seat.[citation needed] (Nighthorse Campbell later switched to the Republican Party.[23]

In 1996 Lamm, while noting that he was still a registered Democrat, criticized both his own Democratic Party and the Republican Party, saying "I think both political parties are controlled by special interest money, and I've had enough of it." and "The Democrats are too close to the trial lawyers and the National Education Association. The Republicans are too close to the radical right."[24] On July 9, 1996, he formally announced his intention to run for the nomination of the Reform Party for the U.S. presidency. Less than 48 hours after Lamm announced his candidacy, Ross Perot, who built the Reform Party from his United We Stand America organization, said he would run as the Reform Party nominee if drafted. In early August, Lamm picked former California Republican congressman Ed Zschau, a high-tech millionaire and proven fund-raiser, to be his running mate on his would-be presidential ticket. Ultimately, however, Perot won 65.2 percent of the 49,266 votes cast by party members nationwide, Lamm winning just 34.8 percent.[25]

Writer and novelist[edit]

In 1985, while still in the governor's office, Lamm tried his hand as a novelist. The resulting novel, 1988, is a story about a former Democratic governor of Texas running for U.S. President on a populist, third-party ticket, declaring himself a "progressive conservative." The main character bore a number of similarities to Lamm himself, in his stated political positions, his background as a Democratic governor, as well as presaging Lamm's own unsuccessful run for the Reform Party nomination in 1996. However, the main character in 1988 was also portrayed as a pawn of an international conspiracy to capture the White House.[14]

A voluminous writer, Lamm's other works include Population and the Law (1972), Some Reflections on the Balkanization of America (1978), Megatraumas: America at the Year 2000 (1980),[26] Energy Activities in the West (1980), The Angry West: A Vulnerable Land and Its Future (1982), Campaign for Quality: An Education Agenda for the 80's (1983), Pioneers and Politicians: Ten Colorado Governors in Profile (1984), Copernican Politics (1984), The American West: A poem (1985), Immigration Time Bomb: The Fragmenting of America (1985), The Lamm Administration: A Retrospective (1986), California Conspiracy (1988), Hard Choices (1989), Crisis: The Uncompetitive Society (1989), The fall and Rise of the American Economy (1989), Indicators of Decline: An article from The Futurist (1993), The Supply Factor in Health Care Cost Containment (1993), The Ethics of Excess: An article from The Hastings Center Report (1994), Health Care Workforce Reform.: An article from State Legislatures (1994), The West at Risk (1994), Futurizing America's Institutions.: An article from The Futurist (1996), The price of Modern Medicine (1997), Mountains of Colorado (1999), Government does, indeed, ration health care: An article from State Legislatures (1999), Redrawing the Ethics Map.: An article from The Hastings Center Report (1999), Vision for a Compassionate and Affordable Health System (2001), Brave New World of Health Care (2003), The Brave New World of Health Care (2004), The Challenge of an Aging Society: The Future of U.S. Health Care (2005), Two Wands, One Nation: An Essay on Race and Community in America (2006), Condition Critical: A New Moral Vision of Health Care (2007), and The Brave New World of Health Care Revisited (2013) with Andy Sharma, PhD.[27]

Activities after political office[edit]

After leaving office, Lamm continued to speak publicly on environmental issues, mainly population control,[28] immigration reduction, and health care issues.

In 2004 Lamm unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the board of directors of the Sierra Club. He urged that the Sierra Club advocate immigration controls as a way to limit environmental degradation due to population growth.[29]

Lamm served as the Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and on the board of directors of the Diversity Alliance for a Sustainable America (DASA). He was the Co-Director of the Institute for Public Policy Studies at the University of Denver.[30] He authored a book, The Brave New World of Health Care, a criticism of current United States health care policies and proposals for reforming them. (Fulcrum Publishing, ISBN 1-55591-510-8) Lamm also served on the board of directors of American Water Development Inc, along with, among others, Maurice Strong, Samuel Belzberg, Alexander Crutchfield, and William Ruckelshaus.[citation needed]

In 2005, a 2004 speech by Lamm titled "I Have a Plan to Destroy America," became famous after being frequently forwarded as an email; in the talk he criticized multiculturalism.[31]

In 2006, he gave a controversial speech on the theme of his recently released book, Two Wands, One Nation, arguing that black and Hispanic Americans should embrace "Japanese or Jewish values".[32] The essay was widely criticized by Colorado community groups and leaders of his own party.[33]


Lamm died on July 29, 2021, in Denver from complications of a pulmonary embolism, one week before his 86th birthday.[34][35][36]


  1. ^ "DU Portfolio | Dick Lamm". Archived from the original on July 19, 2011. Retrieved September 14, 2009.
  2. ^ Capace, Nancy (January 1, 1999). Encyclopedia of Colorado. Somerset Publishers, Inc. ISBN 9780403098132. Retrieved February 27, 2018 – via Google Books.
  3. ^ root. "Richard D. Lamm". www.nga.org. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  4. ^ "Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph Archives, Dec 2, 1991, p. 14". NewspaperArchive.com. December 2, 1991.
  5. ^ "World Who's who in Commerce and Industry". 1966.
  6. ^ Smith, Diane (1953). Lebanon Log (xxiii ed.). p. 92.
  7. ^ Witt, Linda (May 5, 1985). "GOV. GLOOM AND DOOM COLORADO'S LAMM: THE 'PROPHET OF REALITY'". chicagotribune.com.
  8. ^ Colorado River Water Users Association, Richard Lamm Archived October 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, MS Word document.
  9. ^ See "Richard Lamm" Institute for Public Policy Studies U of Denver
  10. ^ Westword, Dottie Lamm, the better half Archived June 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, accessed July 30, 2009.
  11. ^ Washington Post, November 4, 1998, "Colorado senate", accessed July 30, 2009.
  12. ^ "Three Coloradans among 200 Time 'leaders of tomorrow'". Greeley Daily Tribune. New York. AP. July 9, 1974. p. 5. Retrieved June 6, 2024 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ "The Dartmouth - America's Oldest College Newspaper". Retrieved February 27, 2018.[dead link]
  14. ^ a b Richard D. Lamm, Governor's Chessboard: A Lifetime of Public Policy (2019)
  15. ^ Dave Kopel, "The corner", National Review, January 24, 2004.
  16. ^ John Sanko, "Colorado only state ever to turn down olympics" Archived June 1, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, Rocky Mountain News.
  17. ^ "Colorado". Initiative & Referendum Institute. University of Southern California. Archived from the original on October 7, 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  18. ^ "Demo candidate on two-day walk to Junction". Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. June 19, 1974. p. 17. Retrieved June 6, 2024 – via Newspapers.com.
  19. ^ Stuart Steers, "The blacktop jungle", Archived April 7, 2010, at the Wayback Machine Westword, June 19, 1997.
  20. ^ PBS, "Road to the future," May 20, 2009.
  21. ^ New York Times, "Gov. Lamm asserts elderly, if very ill, have 'duty to die'", March 29, 1984.
  22. ^ You Tube Video of "Come Grow Old With Me in Colorado." https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=v9EzaMrZEJA&feature=emb_logo
  23. ^ "U.S. Senate: Senators Who Changed Parties During Senate Service (Since 1890)".
  24. ^ Transcript of CNN's Inside Politics Weekend Archived May 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, July 7, 1996.
  25. ^ Robin Toner, "Reform Party names Perot its presidential candidate; 49,000 participate in vote," New York Times, August 18, 1996.
  26. ^ "Megatraumas: America at the Year 2000 (Hardcover)." Amazon.com. Retrieved on February 9, 2009.
  27. ^ See Richard D. Lamm, Governor's Chessboard: A Lifetime of Public Policy (2019)
  28. ^ Prendergast, Alan (June 20, 2016). "Five Reasons Not to Miss Our Facebook Live Visit With Ex-Governor Dick Lamm". Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  29. ^ Felicity Barringer, "Bitter division for Sierra Club on immigration," New York Times, March 16, 2004.
  30. ^ "The Montgomery Fellows -". www.dartmouth.edu. May 27, 2016. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
  31. ^ "Richard Lamm on Multiculturalism." Snopes. Retrieved on February 9, 2009.
  32. ^ Google books, Two Wands, One Nation, accessed July 31, 2009.
  33. ^ Elizabeth Aguilera, "Lamm's remarks stir anger,", Denver Post, July 28, 2006.
  34. ^ "Dick Lamm, Who Served Three Terms As Governor In Colorado, Dies At Age 85". CBS. July 30, 2021. Retrieved July 30, 2021.
  35. ^ "Former Colorado Governor Richard 'Dick' Lamm Dies at 85". CPR.org. July 30, 2021. Retrieved July 30, 2021.
  36. ^ Bunch, Joey (July 30, 2021). "Former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm dies at 85". Colorado Politics. Retrieved August 13, 2021.

Further reading[edit]

  • Doskoch, Peter. "Lamm on the line."Psychology Today (Sep/Oct96), Vol. 29 Issue 5, pp 12–16.
  • Lamm, Richard D. Governor's Chessboard: A Lifetime of Public Policy (2019), autobiography ISBN 9781682752593
  • Riveland, Chase. "Gubernatorial Styles: Is There a Right One?." Journal of State Government 62.4 (1989): 136–139.
  • "Beyond political paralysis: An interview with Richard Lamm." Christian Century (April 16, 1997) Vol. 114 Issue 13, pp 388–92.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee Governor of Colorado
1974, 1978, 1982
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Colorado
Succeeded by