An act of political grace happened on Nov. 22, 1963

Dick Wadhams is a former Colorado Republican state chairman who worked for U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong for nine years before managing campaigns for U.S. Sens. Hank Brown and Wayne Allard, and Gov. Bill Owens.



The Gazette, Colorado Springs


Sixty years ago this week on the morning of Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, Republican leaders from across the state were making their way to downtown Denver for an afternoon state committee meeting foand dinner that evening. Colorado Republicans were still basking in the glow of huge victories in the 1962 mid-term election. Jean Tool was elected Colorado Republican state chairman in 1963 after he successfully and brilliantly managed the improbable gubernatorial campaign of Colorado Springs attorney John Love who unseated Democratic Gov. Stephen L.R. Mcnichols. Love, a World War II pilot, had not previously run for public office. Love would go on to win reelection in 1966 and 1970. Colorado Republicans would not elect another new governor until 36 years later in 1998 with Gov. Bill Owens. Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Peter Dominick unseated Democratic U.S. Sen. John Carroll and Republicans won the offices of attorney general, secretary of state, and treasurer along with state legislative majorities. Notable among newly elected legislators was a young radio station executive, Bill Armstrong, who would go on to serve in the U.S. Senate. It was a sweeping statewide victory punctuated by defeating the incumbent Democratic governor and U.S. senator, something Colorado Republicans have not done in the same election since. President John Kennedy was in a motorcade in Dallas that day as part of a political swing to shore up Texas as the 1964 presidential campaign approached. Vice President Richard Nixon carried Colorado over U.S. Sen. John Kennedy of Massachusett in 1960, and Colorado Republicans were surely looking forward to the 1964 presidential campaign when Kennedy would be seeking reelection. At approximately 12:30 pm MST, Kennedy was fatally shot. The president was declared dead at 1:00 pm MST. The Republican gathering that was to be a great celebration of election victories with an eye to the next presidential election came crashing down to earth in the aftermath of the tragic assassination of the president of the United States. With the state committee meeting scheduled to begin in less than two hours in downtown Denver, it was too late for Chairman Tool to cancel the meeting. This was fortuitous because it set the stage for a dramatic moment of political grace. From the official minutes of the Colorado Republican State Central Committee meeting on Friday, November 22, 1963: “The meeting was called to order at 3:01 pm, November 22, 1963 in the Silver Glade Room of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Denver, by the State Chairman, Jean K. Tool. “The Chairman called for one minute of silent prayer in respect to the late John F. Kennedy, President of the United States, stating ‘You are all aware of the tragedy of this day. May we open this meeting by standing for a minute of silent prayer.’ “The Chairman then stated ‘If it is your will, we will let the minutes of this meeting show that this committee expresses its deep sorrow and regret at the loss of our President, and that our sympathy goes out from our hearts to the First Family on this tragic loss.’ “’And now, with your respectful permission, I ask for the motion to adjourn.’“The meeting adjourned six minutes after it started. Chairman Tool, who was a strong, partisan political leader, met the moment that November afternoon. Beyond politics, Tool was a public relations executive, so he was adept at finding the right words at such a horrible time. But more important, he knew that all Coloradans must join the great national mourning for a fallen president. Unfortunately, I am not sure at all that such a gracious and appropriate choice of words would be done today under the current “leadership” of the Colorado Republican Party. The state party recently invited the ultimate stolen election conspiracist, Kari Lake, who still claims the 2022 election was stolen from her and that she is the real governor of Arizona, to speak to a dinner. The “chairman” of the party did a podcast with self-proclaimed white nationalist Laura Loomer who is too wacky even for Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who rarely sees a conspiracy she doesn’t like. To round out the conspiracy tour, he went on another podcast with criminally convicted Steve Bannon who was pardoned by defeated former president Donald Trump on his way out of office. It doesn’t strain the imagination to think that had these folks been leading the state party in 1963, they might have adopted a resolution reflecting the far right hysteria of that era, “Be it resolved: Kennedy was a communist.” Chairman Tool and the Colorado Republican Party had many stunning victories in 1962, but their finest moment was the grace they showed during the tragic afternoon of Friday, November 22, 1963 in the aftermath of the assassination of President Kennedy.