Richard Lamm

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Richard Lamm
38th Governor of Colorado
In office
January 14, 1975 – January 13, 1987
Lieutenant George L. Brown
Nancy E. Dick
Preceded by John David Vanderhoof
Succeeded by Roy Romer
Personal details
Born Richard Douglas Lamm
(1935-09-12) September 12, 1935 (age 86)
Madison, Wisconsin
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Wisconsin
UC Berkeley School of Law
Profession Co-Director of the Institute for Public Policy Studies at the University of Denver
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1957-1959
Rank First Lieutenant

Richard Douglas "Dick" Lamm (born September 12, 1935) is an American politician, writer, Certified Public Accountant, college professor, and lawyer. 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.

He is currently the Co-Director of the Institute for Public Policy Studies at the University of Denver.[1]

Early life and education

Richard Douglas Lamm was born in Madison, Wisconsin. He graduated from high school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he majored in accounting. Lamm spent his college summers working as a lumberjack in Oregon, a stockboy in New York, and helping out on an ore boat. 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.

From 1958-1960 Lamm lived in Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Berkeley, holding jobs as an accountant, tax clerk and a law clerk.[2]

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.

Since 1963 he has been married to "Dottie" Lamm, a former airline flight attendant and newspaper columnist.[3] In 1998 she won the Democratic nomination for the US Senate from Colorado, but lost in the general election to incumbent Republican Ben Nighthorse Campbell.[4]

Lamm was selected as one of Time Magazine's "200 Young Leaders of America" in 1974, and won the Christian Science Monitor "Peace 2020" essay in 1985. 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. Lamm was the recipient of the 1993 Humanist of the Year award from the American Humanist Association.[5] He was Chairman of the Pew Health Professions Commission and a public member of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

Political activities

Colorado House of Representatives

In 1964 he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives as a Democrat from an affluent district near the University of Denver. In 1967, he drafted and succeeded in passing the nation's first liberalized abortion law.[6] He was an early leader of the environmental movement, and was President of the First National Conference on Population and the Environment.

In 1972, as a member of the Colorado General Assembly, Lamm led the movement against Denver's hosting of the 1976 Winter Olympics. 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 replaced Denver as the host.[7] Lamm's successful effort made him known statewide.[8]

Colorado 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.

One of his acts as governor was designating musician John Denver as the Poet Laureate of Colorado.

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.[9][10]

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." [11] His dire predictions for the future of social security and health care ("duty to die") earned him the nickname "Governor Gloom".

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).

Later political campaigns

In 1990, state party leaders tried to get Lamm to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Tim Wirth, also a Democrat, but Lamm declined. 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. (Nighthorse Campbell later switched to the Republican Party.)

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." [12] 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 the 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.[13]

Writer and novelist

In 1985, while still in the governor's office, he tried his hand as a novelist. The resulting novel, 1988, was 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.

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),[14] 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) and Condition Critical: A New Moral Vision of Health Care (2007).

Activities since leaving political office

After leaving office, Lamm has continued to speak publicly on environmental, 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.[15] During a 2011 interview, Lamm clarified that he believes "legal immigration has been good for America. The success of Silicon Valley shows we need entrepreneurial immigrants with skills to bring to our country!” [16]

Lamm serves 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 is currently the Co-Director of the Institute for Public Policy Studies at the University of Denver.[17] 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.

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 it he criticizes multiculturalism.[18]

In 2006, he gave a controversial speech on the theme of his recently released book, Two Wands, One Nation, advocating that black and Hispanic Americans embrace "Japanese or Jewish values".[19] The essay was strongly criticised by some blacks and Hispanics.[20]

Dick Lamm currently sits on the board of directors for the Energy Literacy Advocates.[citation needed]


"My sixth point for America’s downfall would be to include dual citizenship and promote divided loyalties. I would celebrate diversity over unity. I would stress differences rather than similarities. Diverse people worldwide are mostly engaged in hating each other—that is when they are not killing each other." – How to Destroy America

"The U.S. economy will be debt-ridden, with structural unemployment nearing 20 percent. The U.S. will have the lowest percentage of capital investment and lowest growth in productivity and savings of any major industrialized country. The middle class will be wiped out by these inter-related economic predicaments. … The U.S. has the most expensive and inefficient health-care system in the world." – Megatraumas: America at the Year 2000

Lamm said that elderly, terminally ill patients, have “a duty to die and get out of the way... so that our kids can build a reasonable life." [21]


  1. [1]
  2. Colorado River Water Users Association, Richard Lamm, MS Word document.
  3. Westword, Dottie Lamm, the better half, accessed 30 July 2009.
  4. Washington Post, 4 Nov. 1998, "Colorado senate", accessed 30 July 2009.
  6. Dave Kopel, "The corner," National Review, 24 January 2004.
  7. John Sanko, "Colorado only state ever to turn down olympics", Rocky Mountain News.
  8. "Colorado". Initiative & Referendum Institute. University of Southern California. Retrieved 26 December 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Stuart Steers, "The blacktop jungle," Westword, 19 June 1997.
  10. PBS, "Road to the future," 20 May 2009.
  11. New York Times, "Gov. Lamm asserts elderly, if very ill, have 'duty to die'", 29 March 1984.
  12. Transcript of CNN's Inside Politics Weekend, 7 July 1996.
  13. Robin Toner, "Reform Party names Perot its presidential candidate; 49,000 participate in vote," New York Times, 18 August 1996.
  14. "Megatraumas: America at the Year 2000 (Hardcover)." Retrieved on February 9, 2009.
  15. Felicity Barringer, "Bitter division for Sierra Club on immigration," New York Times, 16 March 2004.
  16. Special Feature: Dick Lamm’s Immigration Diet |
  17. Richard D. Lamm
  18. "Richard Lamm on Multiculturalism." Snopes. Retrieved on February 9, 2009.
  19. Google books, Two Wands, One Nation, accessed 31 July 2009.
  20. Elizabeth Aguilera, "Lamm's remarks stir anger,", Denver Post, 28 July 2006.
  21. Time, April 9th, 1984

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
John David Vanderhoof
Governor of Colorado
January 14, 1975-January 13, 1987
Succeeded by
Roy Romer