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Ken Gordon

Obituary
  • "I never met or personally knew Ken, but was aware of his..."
    - Katie Chafin
  • "Some thirty years ago Ken helped me beat back the big, bad..."
    - Jill Topper
  • "Literally, one of the funniest human beings I have ever..."
    - Bryan Jameson
  • "Ken had an unwavering moral compass that is so rare in..."
    - Ellen Dumm

Ken Gordon, who rose quickly to leadership positions in the Colorado legislature with an uncanny ability to get lawmakers to cooperate with each other, died suddenly on December 22 of a heart attack at Rose Medical Center in Denver, Colorado. He was 63. Gordon grew up in Michigan. As a young lawyer, he spent his first four years as a public defender in Denver representing indigent criminal defendants. Later he set up his own law practice and in 1988, Westword Magazine named him "Pro Bono Attorney of the Year" for representing many defendants for free. In 1992, he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives, a seat he held for 8 years, the last two as minority leader. Term-limited, he ran for the Colorado Senate, won and was quickly elected as Senate Majority leader. In 16 years of elected office, he never accepted PAC money, relying instead on individual contributors. He helped pass Amendment C in 2005, a change in the constitution preserving funding of higher education, as well as health care. He sponsored many bills affecting the environment; was an early opponent of smoking in public, particularly in casinos; and filed many gun-control bills. He formed a non-profit, This Matters.org, to keep the legislature focused on the larger, more important issues, such as funding public schools and higher education Term-limited again, Ken ran for Secretary of State in 2008 and lost by a whisker to Mike Coffman. He formed a non-profit, CleanSlateNow.org, to expose PAC contributions to political candidates. Kenneth Marshall Gordon was born in Detroit on Feb. 6, 1950, the son of Harold and Marion Gordon. He graduated from Groves High School in Birmingham, MI, in 1967, where he was co-captain of the wrestling team. He graduated from the University of Michigan in economics and political science in 1971 and from Boston University School of Law. In trial one day, he saw another young lawyer, Helen Shreves, reading a book, The Far Pavilions, during a recess. That attracted him enough to risk saying hello. They were married six months later at Temple Emanual, and had two children, son Benjamin, of Denver, and daughter, Windy Cook, of Louisville, who survive him. Windy and husband Chris Cook have three children: Aubrielle, Siena Rose and Braydon, who survive him. He is also survived by sisters Patti Gordon and Wendy Gordon, both of Miami. Although Ken and Helen divorced after 15 years of marriage, they remained close friends. Ken's companion of 10 years was Betty Lehman, a disability advisor and former executive director of the Autism Society of Colorado, and the mother of Eli, who was born with autism. Ken was Eli's co-guardian. A memorial service will be held in Denver on Tuesday, January 7th at 11AM at Temple Emmanuel (http://www.emanueldenver.org/). Donations can be made in lieu of flowers to Ken's current non-profit organization, www.CleanSlateNow.org


Published in Denver Post on Jan. 5, 2014
bullet University of Michigan
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