DENVER (AP/CBS4) — Former Colorado Lt. Gov. Joe Rogers, the last lawmaker independently elected to the position, has died at the age of 49.
Rogers died suddenly Monday of medical complications after going to the emergency room at Rose Medical Center, family spokeswoman Sylvia Morgan-Smith said Tuesday. He had been in good health until then, she said.
Rogers was elected in 1998 to serve a four-year term as lieutenant governor under then Republican Gov. Bill Owens. The fellow Republicans ran independently as candidates but he’s credited with helping Owens win a slim victory to become the state’s first GOP governor in 24 years.
Once in office, they clashed over issues including spending and funeral arrangements for Secretary of State Vikki Buckley, who died while in office. That prompted lawmakers to pass legislation allowing gubernatorial candidates to pick their own running mates and Owens allowed the bill to become law. Owens picked state health department chief Jane Norton as his running mate as he sought a second term and Rogers left office in 2002.
Rogers was a lawyer and worked in private practice before serving as staff counsel to U.S. Sen. Hank Brown from 1993 to 1995. He became the first black candidate to run for Congress in Colorado in 1996.
“Joe Rogers lived the American dream by emerging from poverty to become a lawyer and to being elected lieutenant governor of Colorado,” Dick Wadhams, a veteran Republican operative and former chairman of the state Republican Party, told the newspaper.
Rogers is survived by his wife, Juanita Kay Rogers, three children and his mother.
He will lie in state in the state Capitol rotunda on Oct. 15. His funeral will be held the following day at Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Aurora at 11 a.m.
Statement From Denver Mayor Michael Hancock
“I am saddened at the sudden and unexpected loss of former Lt. Gov. Joe Rogers. He was a friend and a trailblazer who rose up from poverty to make a difference in the halls of justice, in education, voting rights and even on the Great Plains of Eastern Colorado. Our thoughts and our prayers go out to Joe’s family, especially his wife and children. He will be missed.”
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