By CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4)– Former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm has died, just four days shy of his 86th birthday. A Democrat, he won office after Watergate and 12 years of Republican rule in Colorado. He held the governor’s seat for three terms between 1975 and 1987.

(credit: CBS)


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Lamm’s wife Dottie issued a statement saying he died of complications from a pulmonary embolism.

“Dick Lamm was famous in Colorado as somebody who talked straight, who was honest, candid,” says veteran political analyst Eric Sonderman, who helped run Lamm’s first gubernatorial campaign and worked under him.

Sondermann knew Lamm not only as a political force but a personal friend of nearly 50 years.

In many ways, he says, Lamm was ahead of his time, “He was prescient, he was able to see ahead of the curve. Most politicians are able to just barely see the curve, Dick had the ability to see what was around the corner.”

The former governor is maybe best known for leading opposition to the 1976 Winter Olympics. It was the first, and only, time a host city rejected the Olympics. But he led on many other issues too, passing an abortion law years before Roe v Wade.

Dick Lamm in 1985

Blue Knights get a flag from Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm in 1985. (credit: The Denver Post via Getty Images)

“He talked about the cost of health care and how much health care was driving people into bankruptcy,” says former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb. “He talked about oil companies tearing down mountains for oil shale, he said we’re going to have growth from Cheyenne to Pueblo.”

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Webb was a friend and a member of Lamm’s cabinet, despite walking out on Lamm’s first inauguration in protest of the lack of African Americans in his administration.

Webb says Lamm also endorsed him for mayor when few others believed in him, “He was dedicated to public service. I think he was one of the best governors this state ever had.”

Lamm wasn’t without controversy, coming under fire for his stance on illegal immigration. He was also a fiscal conservative who spoke out on entitlements.

“Lord knows Dick Lamm was not the first politician to find himself mired in controversy,” says Sondermann. “But he embraced the controversy, he didn’t run away from away from it, he would state his case and when he was wrong, he would back off.”

And Sondermann says a little of that could go a long way today.

(credit: CBS)

He says Lamm was a bold thinker but also intellectually grounded, “There’s still this longing out there no matter how politics have changed, no matter how toxic and divisive it’s become, there’s a longing for the genuine article and Dick Lamm was the genuine article. He was a Colorado original, he left his mark on the state from a policy and a personal perspective because of who he was and how he governed.”

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Sonderman says, in Lamm’s third term, he polled equally popular among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters. But, he says, Lamm would want to be remembered most as a husband, father and grandfather.

Shaun Boyd