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Byron G. Rogers

Byron G. Rogers

Byron G. Rogers

27th Colorado Attorney General
Term: 1936-1940

               When Paul Prosser died in office, there was much speculation as to whom Governor Ed Johnson would appoint to replace him. On July 3, 1936 he chose 35-year-old Byron G. Rogers, an Assistant U. S. Attorney and former Colorado state legislator. In the ensuing decades Rogers would become a political institution in Colorado.

               Byron Giles Rogers was born in Greenville, Hunt County, Texas on August 1, 1900. Less than two years later his family moved to Oklahoma where he attended the public schools in Checotah. After high school Rogers served as a private in the U. S. Army infantry in World War I. After his discharge he attended the University of Arkansas and the University of Oklahoma before moving to Colorado and attending the University of Colorado in 1923 and 1924. In 1925 he graduated from the University of Denver Law School with an L.L.B. and set up a law practice in Las Animas in southeastern Colorado. He served as the City Attorney of Las Animas for four years and as the County Attorney for Bent County for one. In 1932 he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives and served as the Speaker in 1933. In 1934 he was appointed an Assistant U. S. Attorney in Colorado by U. S. Attorney Thomas Morrissey.

               When he was appointed Colorado Attorney General in 1936, Rogers inherited a staff of almost forty.

               Byron Rogers won election as Attorney General in 1936 and 1938. The pre-war years were relatively quiet. Several of his opinions related to new taxes imposed on chain stores, which were seen as a great threat to small businesses. The Colorado General Assembly enacted a gift tax in August of 1937 and revenues for the last five months of the year were $131,000. Several other opinions related to schools. Rogers said schools were immune from suit for injuries on school grounds during school hours. Another opinion related to liability for injuries while transporting students. Yet another held there was not a statutory prohibition against corporal punishment. Several opinions related to the “Women’s Eight Hour Law of 1912,” finding that it applied to beauty shop employees, drug store cashiers and cigar counter girls, but not pharmacists. Rogers opined that the Anatomical Board was authorized to make disposition of unclaimed bodies to medical and dental colleges. Finally, a school board could require students to salute the United States flag, but a child could not be required to take a Bible course against the will of parents or guardians.[1]

               Byron Rogers did not run for reelection as Attorney General in 1940, choosing instead to run for Congress. He lost to J. Edgar Chenowith in Colorado’s Third District. Rogers served as the Chairman of the State Democratic Party in 1941 and 1942. From 1942 to 1945 he served as a member of the War Labor Board. In 1950, Rogers was elected to the U. S. Congress from the state’s First District and served for ten terms before losing the Democratic primary in 1970 by 30 votes to a 34-year-old anti-Vietnam War candidate, Craig Barnes. Rogers’ tenure in Congress was a time during which a number of large water projects and federal construction programs took place in Colorado. Rogers was extremely effective in bringing federal funds to the state. He was recognized for the prominent role he played in bringing a new federal courthouse and federal office building to Denver when both buildings were named in his honor. After his service in Congress Rogers remained in Denver, spending some time as a lobbyist. He died on December 31, 1983 at the age of 83. He was survived by his wife, Helen, and a daughter, Shirley Ann. He is buried at the Mount Lindo Cemetery near Tiny Town, Colorado.


[1] Biennial Reports of the Attorney General for 1937-1938 and 1939-1940, Colorado State Archives.