Over the years, I’ve written columns in February about historical African-American figures with Colorado connections in observation of Black History Month. The stories I told were about people who had lived and died before I was born. As this February is the first Black History Month in which we have an African-American president, I’ve found myself thinking about the contemporary black history I’ve personally observed.
In 1974, George Brown was elected Colorado’s lieutenant governor. Since then, we’ve elected Joe Rogers lieutenant governor and Vicki Buckley secretary of state. My two most exciting memories were the enactment of Martin Luther King’s birthday as a state holiday in 1984 and Wellington Webb’s election as Denver’s mayor in 1991. Having been involved in these milestones are among my proudest professional accomplishments.
Creation of the King holiday was a fantastic accomplishment by the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Wilma Webb and Sen. Regis Groff. Their 1984 effort was the 12th straight year the Colorado General Assembly had considered the measure, and there was little reason to expect success. When Gov. Richard Lamm signed the bill into law on April 4, 1984, the 16th anniversary of Dr. King’s death, people gathered in the state Capitol’s Old Supreme Court erupted in a celebration I’ll never forget.
Similarly, Webb’s 1991 mayoral victory would have been hard to predict. Everyone expected Mayor Federico Pena would run for re-election in a rematch of his 1987 race against Don Bain. When Pena opted out, pundits predicted a battle between Bain and District Attorney Norm Early. Webb edged Bain to enter the runoff against Early. As both runoff candidates were African-Americans, Denver was assured of its first black mayor. Webb, who had run out of campaign funds and spent the last month of the campaign walking throughout the city and sleeping in the homes of campaign supporters, captured all the momentum, won by a comfortable margin and became Denver’s first African-American mayor on July 1, 1991.
Just this year, Colorado became the first state in the country to have African-Americans as president of the Senate and speaker of the House at the same time when Peter Groff (Regis’ son) and Terrance Carroll assumed those positions for the 2009 legislative session. Ironically, they are the only African-Americans currently serving in the General Assembly.
We’re living tomorrow’s history today. Keep your eyes open!
• • •
Speaking of hard to predict, who could have guessed that Evergreen High School’s mock trial team would emerge as 2009 regional champions? The team, which had advanced to eight straight state tournaments and was state champion in 2007, looked to be in rebuilding mode. They had a new coach and instead of its typical upper-classmen-dominated team, only half the team members were juniors or seniors. The team bested Arvada West, Lakewood, Clear Creek and Dakota Ridge to take top honors. Congratulations to coach Mandy Wortman and team members Aaron Glick, Hannah Glick, Kaylin Land, Angie Mach, Isaac Olson, Lauren Page, Madalyn Page, Catherine Philbin, Rebekah Romberg, Haley Rowan, Mackenzie Whitesell and Maxx Zinisek. Kudos to Jim Chalat, who served as the team’s attorney coach, and to assistant attorney coaches Vivian Philbin and Barry Meinster. Their next stop is the state tournament March 13 and 14 at the Jefferson County courthouse.
• • •
The continued success of the Evergreen High School Poms should be no surprise to anyone. They are perennially among Colorado’s top teams and regularly compete in the national championships. The team improved on its 10th-place national finish in 2008 by finishing eighth at the National Dance Championships this year. Coach Debbie Cooper, assistant coach Sandy Wright and team members Victoria Blackstock, Morgan D’Antuono, Katherine Eichhorn, Cali Forbes, Caroline Kelley, Kelsey Kolrud, Mackenzie Mackay, Haley Miller, Michaela Molleur, Chelsea O’Neill, Emily Ryon, Kira Stilley, Mackenzie Varani-Clapp, Andrea Wells and Erica Wells did us all proud. Great job, girls!
Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.