Allen Dines, former Speaker of the House

Former Speaker of the House Allen Dines, photo courtesy

Allen Dines, Speaker of the Colorado House in the 1965 and 1966 legislative sessions, died in a Pennsylvania hospice on Dec. 17, 2020, at age 99.

Dines, a Democrat, served in the Colorado House from 1957 to 1966 and in the state Senate from 1966 to 1974.

A Denver native, born on Nov. 20, 1921, Dines graduated from Yale in 1942 and earned his law degree from Harvard in 1948. He married Audrey, his first wife, in 1942. She passed away in the early 1990s. He remarried about 15 years ago.

"He was handsome, kind and generous to a fault," wife Jodi Dines told Colorado Politics. "His whole purpose was to make life better for others."

In a 2012 Colorado Statesman profile, Morgan Smith wrote that Dines "got his [Yale] diploma in the morning and his commission as a Navy Ensign in the afternoon through the Reserve Officer Training Program, which has now, fortunately, been re-instituted on Ivy League campuses. Serving on a destroyer that was supporting the landings at Iwo Jima and Okinawa, his ship was hit by Japanese Kamikazes and lost 100 crew members."

During World War II, Dines was on active duty in the Caribbean and the Pacific theaters, according to a biography of House speakers.

After the war and law school, Dines spent five years working for the federal government, including the U.S. State Department, where he was involved with foreign aid. He also worked for the Central Intelligence Agency and in 1952, in the Executive Office of the President of the United States.

In 1954, he joined the law firm of Holmes, Roberts, More and Owens. He also served as director and chairman of the board of the Colowyo Coal company and as a trustee of Colorado Women's College.

Dines told Smith that he registered as a Democrat, “maybe subconsciously to show my Republican father my independence.”

Dines was first elected to the Colorado House as a downtown Denver representative at age 34 (this was before numbered House districts). He was immediately named chair of the powerful Joint House-Senate Subcommittee on Appropriations, the forerunner of the Joint Budget Committee, where he spent the next four years.

He also served as House Majority Leader (1961-62) and House Minority Leader (1963 to 1964). The year he was elected Speaker, Democrats held both chambers of the General Assembly and the governor's office for the first time in 20 years.

In a 1974 oral history published on the General Assembly website, Dines recounted his freshman appointment to the joint appropriations committee.

"That happened because they had a heck of a time finding a candidate," Dines said. The Speaker that year, Charles Conklin, "canvassed the group of senior Representatives who might have been interested and qualified and they were not interested...It's interesting, the more experienced people in the party would shy away from a position that powerful."

As to being a member of the minority, both in the House and Senate, Dines said in the oral history that "All you can do is squawk. You complain about what's happening and your main problem is to complain only when there is a valid complaint."

Dines cited as his major accomplishment transforming that joint appropriations committee into the JBC, which took place in 1959.

"This small working group gave both sides a say in decisions and each an opportunity to listen to the other and to make modest concessions in private," he said. "The result was frequently that all six members supported the final bill and argued for it in their caucus as well as on the floor. Perhaps the Federal Congress could benefit from such an arrangement.”

Once he became part of the Senate minority, Dines worked behind the scenes to suggest amendments to the budget, which he did quietly and without seeking credit from the Republicans who sponsored those amendments.

When he retired from the state Senate, he was awarded the "'Champion Minority Manipulator of the Majority.’ I was a little insulted when I got the award but now I’m very proud of it," he told Smith.

After deciding not to run for re-election to the state Senate in 1974, he went back to practicing law and served as the president of the board of the Donnell-Kay Foundation, which was then in Florida. Dines moved the organization to Denver and focused its efforts on his passion, education.

Dines also considered a run for governor, but said in the oral history that "I thought I was going to run for Governor once and I said I was going to run for the U.S. Senate once, but I never got very far on either one of them. Partly because my estimate of what the temperature was, I wasn't going to get the support that I'd have to have. I was never one who wanted to get into a race that I thought I was going to lose, and spend of myself and spend dollars and spend friends' time and loyalty and energies and heart to get something done that I didn't think was in the cards. So I pulled my nose back each time. Since then, I've not been as ambitious. I'm out of politics now and I'm glad to be out. I miss it, but I don't regret having been in. I enjoyed those 18 years very much."

Dines' enduring legacy, in addition to the JBC, is one tied to his love of the outdoors, according to Jodi Dines. He was largely responsible for the creation of Staunton State Park in Jefferson County.

In 1971, and according to "Historically Jeffco," Dines and his wife, Audrey, purchased an 80-acre property from Rudolph and Mildred Paulson. That same year, the Paulson's sold the other half of the property to two former Rocky Mountain News reporters, Robert and Mary Coyle Chase. The latter was the playwright who authored the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Harvey. Both properties adjoined another owned by Frances Staunton. 

According to a 2015 news release from the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, "Staunton State Park was largely created by donations from two Coloradans, Frances Staunton and earlier donations from or facilitated by Allen Dines. Each of these contributors loved their mountain ranch landscape," said Jennifer Anderson, manager, Staunton State Park. "Allen Dines served the people of Colorado for many years and in many capacities. His gift of the Dines Ranch to Staunton State Park continues his legacy of service, benefiting present and future generations." In 2015, Dines donated the 80-acre Dines Ranch to expand the park. "He wanted to see it happen while he was still alive," according to Jodi Dines. "His philanthropy continues to the people of Colorado through his gift to Staunton State Park."

Dines was the son of Tyson and Isabel (Allen) Dines. He was the youngest of three children, including sister Katherine (Higgenson) and brother Tyson, both now deceased. With his first wife, he had a son, Sidney, who died in 2016, and daughter, Lucy Delsol.

He is survived by Jodi, his daughter, a stepdaughter, numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Dines was buried with full military honors at the Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

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