Lauren Watson, founder of Denver's Black Panther party.
Lauren Watson, founder of Denver's Black Panther party.

Lauren Watson, most known for organizing the Colorado chapter of the Black Panther Party in Denver, has died at the age of 79.

His son, Hasira Ashemu, told 9News that Watson had moved to Colorado when he was 10 years old. Watson's great-grandfather had suffered a lynching in Mississippi, which had a profound effect on him.

"He was determined to do whatever he could do, by any means necessary, not to have that passed on for the next generation to inherit," Ashemu said. "That's who Lauren Watson was."

In that spirit, Watson had traveled to Oakland and learned about the Black Panther party before returning to Colorado.

While leading the Denver chapter, Watson picketed and protested in the name of racial injustice at various events and functions around the city, according to reporting by the Denver Post. He was also known for walking around the city streets with a pipe wrench in one hand and the other formed into the "black power fist".

Westword reports that Watson ran unsuccessfully for the Denver City Council seat held by Elvin Caldwell in 1975. Ashemu compared that run to the recent Denver City Council race where Candi CdeBaca out seated Albus Brooks.

"Albus Brooks represents the kind of councilperson my father ran against," Ashemu told Westword.

Julian Rubinstein was the last person to interview Watson and is currently working on a book called "The Holly," as well as a documentary film, about the history of northeast Denver. The book and documentary will include Watson's influence on the area.

"It's surprising, given how large his profile is in his community and among the Black Panthers, how little-known his legacy is in greater Denver," Rubinstein told Westword.

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