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History of Colorado's Attorneys General

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office, dates back over 150 years, with its beginnings in the creation of the Colorado territory in 1861. During Colorado’s territorial days, from 1861 to 1876, it is believed that seven people served as the appointed Attorney General. Upon statehood in 1876, the State Constitution established that the Colorado Attorney General would be one of four independently elected statewide offices. Thirty-eight people have served as Colorado’s elected Attorney General.

The list of those who have served includes gold rush opportunity seekers, war heroes, and individuals with distinguished legal and political careers. Some Attorneys General went on to become state and federal judges, and others held additional elected positions, including serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

The work of the office has changed over the years, from cattle rustling to labor unrest, to wartime concerns, liquor and cigarette smuggling, and on to consumer protection and natural resources.

Today, the Attorney General and the Department of Law, collectively referred to as the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, continue to represent and defend the legal interests of the people of the State of Colorado and its sovereignty.

While the information below is not an exhaustive history, it helps to provide a snapshot of the dedicated men and women who have served the State of Colorado and its citizens as the Attorney General.

The information below, includes text and information from The People’s Lawyer, by John Suthers, published by Morris Publishing in 2007. The employee committee that helped to conduct the research includes: Catherine Adkisson, Jane Christman, Darlene Hill, Patrick Kowaleski, Susan Lin, Casey Shpall, Mary Jane Vinette, and Jan Zavislan.

The Colorado Attorney General

Cynthia H. Coffman

Cynthia H. Coffman

Term: 2015-Present

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia H. Coffman serves as the State’s 38th Attorney General. Since she took office in January 2015, General Coffman has focused on community outreach, consumer protection, and protecting public safety and Colorado’s sovereignty.
 
General Coffman began her tenure at the Colorado Department of Law in March of 2005 when she was appointed Chief Deputy Attorney General. Coffman served in this role for 10 years, acting as chief of staff and chief operating officer for the largest law firm in the State of Colorado.
Full biography

Previous Colorado Attorneys General

John W. Suthers

John W. Suthers

Term: 2005-2015

              In 2004, Ken Salazar was elected to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Because he took office in January of 2005, in the middle of his second term as Attorney General, Republican Governor Bill Owens would appoint his replacement to serve until the November 2006 general election. He appointed John Suthers, who served from 2005 to 2015.

Full biography
Ken Salazar

Ken Salazar

Term: 1999-2005

          In the 1998 general election the Republicans won the Colorado Governor’s office for the first time in 24 years when Bill Owens won a narrow victory over Gail Schoettler. In the Attorney General’s race Ken Salazar was unopposed in the Democratic primary. Former Fourth Judicial District Attorney John Suthers won a four-way Republican primary. Salazar won the general election by a 49 percent – 47 percent margin with a Libertarian candidate winning four percent of the vote.

Full biography
Gale A. Norton

Gale A. Norton

Term: 1991-1999

              By 1990 the State of Colorado had grown to 3,294,000 people. The Attorney General’s Office was approaching 300 employees and Colorado had its first female Attorney General. Long time office employees did not know what to expect. Gale Norton quickly made some changes at the top. She hired Ray Slaughter, a long time prosecutor and director of the state’s District Attorneys’ council, to be Chief Deputy Attorney General. She hired a young private practitioner, Tim Tymkovich, to be Solicitor General. Tymkovich would later become a Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge.

Full biography
Duane Woodward

Duane Woodward

Term: 1983-1991

               L. Duane Woodard came from a pioneer Colorado family that had homesteaded in the Greeley area. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri on January 12, 1938, because of his Army officer father’s assignment to Fort Riley, Kansas; his mother returned to Greeley thirteen days later. Woodard lived in Casper and Cheyenne, Wyoming because of his father’s military assignments. Woodard himself served in the Marine Corps in Japan and the Philippines. He attended the University of Wyoming and graduated in 1963.

Full biography
J.D. MacFarlane

J.D. MacFarlane

Term: 1975-1982

               John Dee MacFarlane was born and raised in Pueblo, Colorado. He acquired the nickname “J.D.” at an early age. He attended Pueblo public schools. A high school track star, he attended Harvard University on a scholarship and graduated with a degree in government in 1955. He then spent four years in the Air Force, two as a civilian advisor to the Chief of Staff at the Pentagon, and two as a private first class in the signal corps. He entered Stanford Law School and graduated in 1962. After graduation he worked for two years as a Deputy District Attorney in Pueblo.

Full biography
John P. Moore

John P. Moore

Term: 1973-1974

               After Attorney General Duke Dunbar’s death in office in 1972, Governor Love took about a month to consider his alternatives before appointing John Moore, the Deputy Attorney General under Duke Dunbar since 1968, to be Colorado’s 32nd Attorney General. Moore had started in the Attorney General’s Office as an Assistant in 1962 at a salary of $500 per month. He had spent five years in the appeals section of the office, during which he argued over 200 cases before the state appellate courts.

Full biography
Duke W. Dunbar

Duke W. Dunbar

Term: 1951-1973

               By 1950 the population of Colorado had reached 1,325,000. After World War II, many veterans who had been stationed at military facilities in Colorado moved to the state. The Cold War was in full swing and federal installations in the state were growing. Colorado was becoming a popular tourist destination for newly affluent Americans.

Full biography

John W. Metzger

Term: 1949-1950

              In the 1948 campaign, the only announced Democratic candidate for Colorado Attorney General was Homer Preston. However, delegates to the party’s state convention were unhappy with Preston and drafted 35-year-old John Metzger to be the Attorney General candidate. Metzger was, by all accounts, a colorful lawyer and politician who was very outspoken.

Full biography
Lawrence H. Hinkley

Lawrence H. Hinkley

Term: 1945-1948

               When Ireland decided not to run for a third term in 1944, he endorsed the election of his Deputy, H. Lawrence Hinkley. Hinkley won a narrow victory over Democrat Richard Downing. His salary would be $7,000, recently raised from $6,000. He took office in January of 1945, a year in which Franklin Roosevelt died and both Germany and Japan surrendered.

Full biography
Gail L. Ireland

Gail L. Ireland

Term: 1941-1944

               In 1940, America was being drawn closer to World War II. Neville Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister of Britain. The new Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, declared, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” Germany occupied Paris and France surrendered eight days later. America instituted a selective service system. On a lighter note, Gone With the Wind won eight Oscars and Best Picture of 1939. By 1940 the population of Colorado had reached 1,123,300.

Full biography