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Fred Farrar

Fred Farrar

Fred Farrar

17th Colorado Attorney General
Term: 1913-1916

               Benjamin Griffith ran for reelection in 1912, but on the Progressive (Bull Moose) ticket, rather than as a Republican. He lost to Democrat Fred Farrar in a five way race that included Republican William Gobin.

               Upon his election as State Attorney General in 1912, Frederick M. Farrar became the first native of Colorado to win the office. He had been born in Evans, Colorado in 1878. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1900 and set up a practice of law in Fort Collins. He served on the Board of Pardons from 1909 to 1912. In the Attorney General’s race in 1912, he benefited greatly from the deep divisions in the Republican Party. Just as Woodrow Wilson had become President because of the split between Republicans and the Bull Moose Party, Farrar capitalized on the same divisions in Colorado.

               Attorney General Farrar’s staff included Deputy Francis Bouck and Assistant Attorneys General Frank West, Norton Montgomery, Wendall Stephens and Clement Crowley. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Hubbard (later to be elected Attorney General) served as the chief inheritance tax appraiser.

               In his first Biennial Report to Governor Elias Ammons, Farrar reported on constitutional amendments initiated and voted on by the public in the 1912 election. They included home rule cities, recall from office, a civil service system, and eight-hour work day laws. Farrar lamented the lack of uniformity in tax valuation and the fact it resulted in chronic undervaluing of property. In some instances, property was valued at less than 25 percent of actual value. But he lauded his Inheritance Tax Division for recovering $465,000 in inheritance taxes. In 1913 the legislature created a State Tax Commission. The assessed valuation of Colorado real estate had reached $1.3 billion. It was also in 1913 that Colorado first began to license automobiles.

               Interstate water disputes continued to rage. Farrar was concerned by new litigation filed by irrigation companies in Kansas against companies in Colorado. Wyoming sued to restrain diversion of Laramie River water to the Poudre River. Nebraska sued over the North Fork of the Republican River, and the U. S. Department of Interior was arguing about diversion from the Rio Grande. Finally, he noted a growing dispute with Nebraska over the South Platte River. All these cases would be long and complex, Farrar said, and only $11,682 remained of the $50,000 appropriation of the General Assembly to fight the battles.

               Strikes by coal miners in Southern Colorado climaxed with the Ludlow Massacre in April of 1914. Seventeen people were killed in an assault by the Colorado National Guard on the tent city of 1,200 striking miners. The miners retaliated by attacking dozens of mines. Attorney General Farrar reported on the progress of criminal prosecutions arising from the labor unrest. Ninety-three people were indicted for murder, arson and other crimes in Fremont County and 165 in Las Animas County. Smaller numbers were indicted in Huerfano and Boulder Counties. Local District Attorneys handled most of the cases, but Farrar claimed credit for securing the first conviction of a strike leader for the death of a man killed in a strike incited riot.

               Farrar issued a formal written opinion of some interest involving the authority of a school to separate English-speaking students from non-English-speaking students.

“…If the children are excluded by reason of race, there is no question that such exclusion is illegal. On the other hand, if the test is one of language, then it is a proper exercise of the right of school officials to prescribe the course of study for the best interests of the school.”[1]

               Fred Farrar was reelected Attorney General in the general election of 1914, the year World War I began in Europe. In his second term, Farrar had seven assistants and Leslie Hubbard remained as Assistant Attorney General.

               A significant constitutional issue arose as to whether a statewide prohibition amendment adopted in 1914 to take effect in 1916 was applicable to home rule cities. Farrar worked with the City and County of Denver to present the question to the State Supreme Court. The Court held Denver and other home rule cities were subject to the amendment.

               Farrar reported that criminal prosecutions arising out of coal miner strikes in 1913 and 1914 were not going well. “Not one offender is today suffering a penalty for his crime,” he wrote.                In 1915 Colorado created a State Industrial Commission and passed its first workman’s compensation law.

               During his second term, Farrar reported that a settlement had been reached between various ditch companies in Kansas and Colorado, but that he foresaw a new round of litigation ahead. The latest version of Wyoming v. Colorado had been argued before the U. S. Supreme Court and was pending decision. Colorado had lost a case involving the Republican River, although no “definitive principle” was established. Finally, the Nebraska Ditch Company had sued Colorado over a diversion from the South Platte. Farrar suggested to the legislature that Colorado was constantly on the defensive in water litigation and perhaps going on the offensive was necessary to get a full and speedy resolution of all the issues.

               Inheritance tax collections topped $1,000,000 for the first time.

               On February 15, 1916, Farrar authored an opinion about a matter that would be of concern for Colorado Attorneys General for many years to come. The State Game and Fish Department had submitted a voucher to retain a private attorney to represent it without the consent of the Attorney General. “The law of this state does not give the Game and Fish Department the right to employ legal counsel at state expense, independent of the legal department of the state,” Farrar wrote.[2] The dictate applied to all agencies of state government.

               After his two terms as Attorney General, Farrar practiced law with J. Foster Symes until 1918, when he became General Counsel to Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation in Pueblo. He remained in that capacity until his retirement in 1952. During that time he also served as a trustee of the Colorado School of Mines and Clayton College, as chairman of the State Board of Bar Examiners, and as president of the Chamber of Commerce. Farrar was married to Mary McMenemy and had a son, Frederick, who became an attorney in Colorado Springs and a daughter, Elizabeth. Fred Farrar died in Denver on September 7, 1961 at the age of 83.


[1] Biennial Report of the Attorney General for 1913-1914, Colorado State Archives.

[2] Biennial Report of the Attorney General for 1914-1915, Colorado State Archives.