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William H. Dickson

William H. Dickson

William H. Dickson

14th Colorado Attorney General
Term: 1907-1908

               In the general election of 1906, Republican William Dickson defeated Democrat William B. Morgan and two minor party candidates to become Attorney General. Upon taking office, his three Assistant Attorneys General were Horace Phelps, George D. Talbot and S. H. Thompson, Jr. It’s unclear whether one of them served as the Deputy Attorney General.

               William H. Dickson was born in Pittsfield, Illinois, on December 5, 1871. Like his predecessor Nathan Miller, Dickson attended Northwestern University, graduating from the law school in 1892. He practiced corporate law in Chicago, representing the Chicago and Erie Railroad. He moved to Colorado in 1901. Three years later he was elected to the State House of Representatives and served as Speaker of the House in 1905-1906. Dickson married Winona Holzman in 1895 and they had three children.

               In his report to the Governor at the conclusion of his term as Attorney General, Dickson lamented the increased work the office was given due to the legislature’s creation of additional boards, bureaus and departments. He also complained about all the boards the Attorney General was required to sit on, including the Board of Equalization, Board of Land Commissioners, Auditing Board, Military Board, Board of Education, and the State Board of Child and Animal Protection. He recommended that commissions be set up in order to free executive officers of the state to attend to other duties.

               Dickson suggested that, in light of the favorable decision of the U. S. Supreme Court in Kansas v. Colorado, the state commence development of more irrigation projects. He also identified the most important antitrust cases brought by the office. The Attorney General won a permanent injunction against a “grocery trust” of corporations and labor unions. The office sued the brick manufacturers and bricklayers’ union, alleging an unlawful combination to exclude competition. A third suit alleged a combination among various coal companies. Dickson noted the Attorney General still lacked statutory antitrust authority and urged the legislation to enact such laws.

               It was antitrust concerns, particularly in relation to Standard Oil Company, that led fifteen states, including Colorado, to call for a national meeting of state Attorneys General in the fall of 1907. That meeting resulted in the formation of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG). The second meeting of NAAG was held in Denver in August of 1908.

               Dickson also questioned whether the Attorney General needed to be involved in prize fighting, gambling, and illegal liquor sales cases. He felt the District Attorneys should handle such cases. He reported inheritance tax collections of $550,000, of which more than $300,000 was from the Stratton Estate. The Supreme Court upheld the State’s entitlement to interest.

               The Attorney General also defended numerous suits challenging the constitutionality of the State Railroad Commission Act. The railroads filed fourteen separate suits in federal court. He defended several suits by counties in Colorado challenging the distribution of the assessed valuation of railroads. Finally, he issued a written opinion that Columbus Day was in fact a legal holiday.[1] During Dickson’s term the U. S. Mint opened in Denver and Mesa Verde National Park was created by Congress. After leaving office Dickson practiced law in Denver until his death in 1927.

 

[1] Biennial Report of the Attorney General for 1907-1908, Colorado State Archives.