06/28/2016

Five of the Greatest: Arthur March, Jr. (1933–2005)


Arthur March, Jr. (Art) was born on July 5, 1933 in Fort Collins, Colorado to Arthur March, Sr. (Art, Sr.)1 and Doris March. He devoted his life to his community, his profession, and his family.

Art, Sr. and Doris were both raised in Fort Collins with strong family roots in Northern Colorado. Art’s paternal grandfather was a banker and entrepreneur, and his maternal grandfather was a United Brethren Evangelical minister. Art, Sr. graduated first in his class from the University of Colorado (CU) School of Law in 1936 and returned to Fort Collins, where he practiced for the remainder of his career, subject to service during WWII. During his career, he was appointed as Fort Collins city attorney.

In 1951, when Art graduated from Fort Collins High School, Fort Collins had a population of roughly 44,000. Art, like his father, attended CU, graduating first in his law school class and receiving the then available LLB (bachelor of laws) degree, completing combined college and law school course work in six years. Also like his father, Art was the editor of the University of Colorado Law Review and a member of the Order of the Coif.

Members of the 1957 graduating class formed a bond that would continue well beyond the graduates’ lifetimes. Judge John David Sullivan and his wife Lisa, the late Dale Tooley2 and his wife Maryann (Merrill), the late Kermit Darkey3 and his wife Barbara, and later Richard Bratton and his wife Donna continued to meet regularly as a “bridge club” for more than 55 years, rarely if ever playing bridge (no doubt to Art’s chagrin), preserving what has for three of the class members eclipsed more than lifelong law school friendships.4 

Early Practice Years

Immediately after law school, Art married Claire Winner, a 19-year-old Colorado State University undergraduate whose father, Fred M. Winner,5 practiced law in Denver and had gone to law school with Art, Sr. When Art served a short stint in the military, Claire abandoned her college career to move with Art to his first assignment at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and then to Fort Benning in Georgia and on to the University of Virginia JAG program. Art was ultimately assigned to Fitzsimons Military Hospital in Denver, allowing the couple to return to family and friends, who provided support for their first of three children. In lieu of other opportunities with more glamor and prestige, on discharge from the Army, Art took the short haul from Fitzsimons back to Fort Collins, where he settled into a legal career that would span the next 40 years. By 1960, when Art and Claire returned to Fort Collins, the town’s population had climbed to nearly 53,000. Immediately upon their return, Art became a member of a firm with Art, Sr. and partner O. Rex Wells. The three practiced together for a short time, with the Marches spinning off and forming the firm of March and March shortly thereafter. The father and son team continued to represent the City of Fort Collins and served a strong local private client base.

Art and Claire became involved in a broad range of community and business pursuits. Art led, with other young community leaders, in forming the University National Bank in Fort Collins (now Chase Bank), and he served as an officer and on its board of directors. He also served on the vestry and was the clerk of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Fort Collins.6 In addition, he was a member of the Fort Collins Elks Lodge and took a hands-on role in the construction of community swimming pool upgrades and the Edora community playground and park.

In 1968, Art set aside many aspects of his law practice to provide representation in the Episcopal Church’s ecclesiastical tribunals on behalf of Bishop Joseph Summerville Minnis, the sixth diocesan Episcopal bishop for the State of Colorado. These ecclesiastical proceedings were largely carried out behind closed doors but gained national attention. Although the result of the proceedings was not favorable to Bishop Minnis, the proceedings were handled in a manner that, notwithstanding opponents’ contrary desires, allowed for preservation of the dignity of both the client and of the diocese.

By 1965, John David “Sonny” Sullivan had joined the law firm; Ramsey Myatt joined in 1970, by which time Fort Collins had grown to a community of 90,000. March, March, Sullivan and Myatt continued to represent the City  of Fort Collins and a broad range of clients in diverse areas. In 1972, Art, Sr. stepped down as city attorney and Art, who had served as Fort Collins assistant city attorney since April 1, 1961, became city attorney on October 19, 1972. He held that position until August 31, 1978.

Fort Collins saw many improvements during Art’s tenure: The Platte River Power Authority replaced the City Electrical Plant; the City and the rural fire district formed the Poudre Fire Authority, serving not only Fort Collins but surrounding areas; the number of water and sewer plants increased; and the City developed some of the best water supply sources and supporting water rights in the state.

In October 1970, the Fort Collins city government presented projections through the year 2000 concerning housing, transportation, education, employment, utilities, recreation, and social services. Task forces developed plans for public facilities and projects deemed necessary for the beneficial development of the community. City initiatives in 1973 included a new library,7 the Lincoln Community Center,8 the Poudre River Parkway, land use planning and growth control, Transfort and Care-a-Van transportation systems,9 new parks,10 federally subsidized low-income housing projects, and sewer line expansions to underserved areas of the community.11

In 1977, large portions of two city blocks in downtown Fort Collins were destroyed when a huge explosion in a shop in the Robertson Building wiped out 116 to 120 East Oak Street and rocked the downtown area in the early morning hours of April 26. The devastation demolished or severely damaged a number of buildings and left numerous businesses homeless. At this point, Sonny Sullivan had left the firm and business was being carried on as March, March and Myatt. The firm worked with one of the local title company owners, Jim Garton, to redevelop the southeast corner of College and Oak Streets. The harrowing project, along with the reconstruction of the adjacent Elks Club, went on for almost two years and resulted in the revitalization of the destroyed area.

Through various firm configurations, Art continued to practice from the restored office location at 110 East Oak until his retirement. Art could regularly be seen rushing from his office with his trademark pipe clamped firmly in his teeth (the pipe was often unlit and served as a pacifier as much as a smoking implement), jumping into one of a variety of sports cars, or heading down College or Oak streets at a brisk pace, late for a meeting, a tee time, or a card game.

As time progressed, conflicts of interest developed from Art’s representation of a broad private client base and the City, and the scope of the City’s workload increased, leading Fort Collins to hire in-house counsel. In 1978, Fort Collins, with encouragement from Art, retained its first in-house city attorney, Lucia A. Liley. Art stayed on as special counsel, acting as a mentor and advisor into the early 1980s. In 1985, Lucia, who had left the City Attorney’s Office for family and other personal reasons, returned to the practice of law and entered private practice with Art’s firm: March, Myatt, Korb, Carroll and Brandes, P.C. In 2001, Lucia and Art formed March & Liley, PC and practiced together until Art’s retirement. Lucia became the consummate example of the student who surpasses the teacher. She continues to represent clients involved in municipal and land use matters.

With the firm’s relocation to Oak Street, Art, an avid bridge player, was now closer to the local Elks Club. Though a declining social hub of the community, the Elks Club had long been a staple in the legal community. It was regularly observed that more cases were settled at the Elks Club than were resolved through the courts. Most of the Fort Collins Bar gathered daily at the Elks for lunch and cards, and Art and his father were no exception. For nearly 20 years, the two Marches would leave the law office just before noon each day and trek over to what Art’s children referred to as the “card office,” the Elks, to play cards with fellow members. After two hours of bridge, or occasionally rummy, pitch, or cribbage, they would return to their respective desks. The City, as well as the Marches’ two staff members, clients, and family, well knew that the firm’s doors would be closed from noon until 2:00 p.m., and that this time was sacred for father and son. Interruptions during this time were infrequent, but inevitably clients would be waiting, usually patiently, at 2:00, when the bridge game let out.


University National Bank check presentation: Arthur March, Jr. (sitting, left), Ray Chamberlin (sitting, center), J. C. Pace (sitting, right), Harold Silas (standing, right), circa 1968.

City Board Council meeting, pre-open meetings laws: Fort Collins City Manager Tom Coffee (standing); City Councilman William Lopez (sitting, center); Arthur March, Jr. (right, leaning over), Reporter Don McMillan (peeking through door).

 

Thomas D. Chilcott

In 1981, Art, Sr. passed away and City demands were dropping off. That year, Northern Colorado was dazed when it was discovered that Fort Collins businessman Thomas D. Chilcott, individually and through various entities, had been running a Ponzi scheme. Chilcott, who had apparently proven himself to be a failsafe financial investment wizard from 1975 to 1981, had attracted nearly $80 million in investments into a commodities pool from approximately 400 people.12 An FBI investigation disclosed evidence that only $8 million in liquid assets remained in the commodities pool, over half of which assets were held in Chilcott’s name. Chilcott had diverted substantial assets of the pool into personal ventures or had lost them in speculative trading. A federal investigation begun in June 1981 revealed that Chilcott had not made promised investments, nor had he earned profits he had reported. Chilcott’s actual investments included partnerships and joint ventures for trading in securities, investment contracts, commodity futures contracts, real estate, race horses, dental clinics, oil and gas leases, computer software businesses, advertising, and various other enterprises.13 

In 1981, the federal Commodities Futures Trading Commission filed suit against Chilcott in the Federal District Court of Colorado, resulting in injunctions and the appointment of recently retired U.S. Congressman James P. Johnson as equity receiver.14 Art was selected by Johnson as general counsel for the receivership. Within a year, Johnson and March put together a legal team that included Kenneth C. Groves, and Rodney Patula, Elaine Menter, and Frederick Haines of Pryor, Carney & Johnson. Suit was filed against Chilcott, Boettcher & Company, Shearson/American Express, Inc. and other defendants, with a goal of recovering lost investor funds. Johnson argued that the brokerage houses that had dealt with Chilcott had an obligation to oversee Chilcott’s activities.15 

The Chilcott case continued for more than 10 years due to its complexity. Ultimately, as a result of asset recoveries and settlements, Johnson as receiver was able to recover in excess of $50 million, representing 101% of the pool’s invested assets. This proved an astounding result, particularly in light of the picture painted at the time Johnson was appointed in 1981.16 Both Art and Jim Johnson worked tirelessly over the tenure of the receivership to track and analyze investments, manage funds recovered, litigate and evaluate complex brokerage house claims, investigate claims of investors, and ultimately provide recovery payments.

Revitalizing Historic Fort Collins

In representing the City, Art was active with the Colorado Municipal League. He was instrumental not only in drafting and enforcing the Fort Collins City Code but also in drafting and modifying various state statutes, including those that allowed for the creation of governmental authorities, such as cooperative authorities formed between two governmental entities. The Poudre Fire Authority, the Fort Collins Loveland Airport Authority, and the Platte River Power Authority are examples of cooperative ventures that were orchestrated through intergovernmental agreements during Art’s tenure and that continue to provide services in Northern Colorado.

Art recognized that historic downtown Fort Collins, a triangular area formed by Mountain Avenue, College Avenue, and Jefferson Street, had lost its economic viability. This area, which was the historic core of Fort Collins, is often credited as having been the source of inspiration for Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A., which was designed by Fort Collins-born Harper Goff. Fort Collins’s Linden Hotel and Old Firehouse are readily recognizable by vacationers entering the California theme park. By the 1980s, however, the older part of Fort Collins had deteriorated and could no longer boast of its former historic beauty. Instead of going downtown, shoppers migrated to newly constructed shopping malls on the city’s southern boundaries.

As Art was leaving the City Attorney’s Office, Eugene Mitchell, a longtime attorney turned real estate developer, was formulating a vision to acquire many of the older buildings in Fort Collins and revive the dilapidated area. Mitchell retained Art and his law firm as general counsel for the redevelopment effort. As a vehicle to facilitate the redevelopment, the City formed a Downtown Development Authority, which was made possible only after substantial amendments to Title 31, Article 25 of Colorado’s Statutes. Many of these amendments were drafted by Art, with support from the Colorado Municipal League and the City. During the redevelopment of historic Fort Collins, rights of way were vacated to form pedestrian-friendly mall areas; infrastructure was replaced and repaired; increment financing provided owners funds to redevelop; and sales of façade easements ensured that buildings would be returned to and retain their original grandeur. Art was so taken with the project that he urged his wife Claire and her partner to move their needlework and gift business to the ground floor of the main pedestrian mall area near what had been Linden Street. Gene Mitchell invested in the project heart and soul, to the point that Art’s college-age daughter once referred to Mitchell as the Walt Disney of Fort Collins (even though at the time she had no idea of the tie between the theme park’s Main Street U.S.A. and its Fort Collins roots).

The early years of the downtown Fort Collins project were a challenge. Gene Mitchell was determined to see the vision come to life, notwithstanding changes in the economy and the unprecedented investment required. Ultimately, Mitchell was forced to divest himself and his company of the project. Art continued to represent Gene and his company throughout this process.

Today, historic Old Town is one of the gems of the Fort Collins community and certainly one of the most notable attractions in Northern Colorado. Mitchell’s role and his sacrifices in completing the project are regularly recognized.17 The Fort Collins Downtown Development Authority has broadly expanded the original Authority boundaries and is now more than ably represented by Lucia Liley, Art’s longtime close partner and friend. Recently, the Authority completed the second renovation of Old Town Square under the leadership of Lucia and a dedicated community board and its devoted staff. The Authority continues to improve and restore the ever-expanding Old Town area, recently paving the way for longtime business resident Woodward Governor to relocate to property now included within the Authority’s boundaries.


Three generations: Arthur E. March, Sr.,
Brad March, and Arthur March, Jr., 1983.

 

Retirement

Art became a seminarian on completion of the Chilcott litigation. While continuing to practice, he spent three years studying religion and ethics, first at St. Thomas Theological Seminary of Denver (which subsequently closed its doors) and later at the Iliff School of Theology. As illustrated by the accolades he received, Art expressed his strong religious beliefs professionally, and imparted them to his family and clients. He was the first recipient of the Larimer County Annual Professionalism Award and an early recipient of the Colorado Bar Association Certificate of Professionalism, awarded for exemplifying the highest standards of the legal profession. He was honored by his alma mater, CU Law School, for his achievements in the profession. For many years he mentored and advised young lawyers and was ever willing to share legal forms, perspectives, and humble insights within the legal community. He was generally known for his willingness to help others, the community, and most important, his family.

Art formally retired on January 1, 2002. He spent the last four years of his life studying and teaching within his church and traveling with his beloved wife and his children. When he developed dementia, Claire, his family, and his law school classmates were always there to provide support.

Art passed away on December 17, 2005 at age 72.18 He is survived by his loving wife and his three children, Brad, Meg, and Jennifer, and nine grandchildren, Aimee, Katie, and Julie; Randy, Ryan, and Reilly; and Kaitlyn, Mikaela, and Courtney. He is sorely missed by his family, friends, and colleagues, but the loving integrity he imparted and his community legacy remain.


Art , Jr. with grandson Randy Torres.

 

Notes

1. Sullivan and Myatt, “Six of the Greatest: Arthur E. March,” 26 The Colorado Lawyer 19 (July 1997).

2. Spriggs, “Six of the Greatest: Dale Tooley,” 26 The Colorado Lawyer 11 (July 1997).

3. Dackey was President of the Mountain States Employers Council from 1980 to 1996. He passed away on December 29, 2015.

4. Darkeys, Sullivans, and Brattons all visited Art before he passed away from a prolonged illness.

5. Campbell et al., “Six of the Greatest: Fred M. Winner,” 44 The Colorado Lawyer 63 (July 2015).

6. Art served as the clerk and as a vestry member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Fort Collins through the mid-1960s during a time when the church built a new facility, which remains in service, and sold the church’s rectory. He later served again on the church’s vestry, including as the senior member of the vestry in the early and mid-1980s.

7. Fort Collins City Library opened on October 18, 1976. It is 33,500 square feet and can accommodate 109,000 volumes and seat 124 patrons.

8. The Lincoln Center opened in the fall of 1978, featuring an auditorium with almost 1,200 seats, an art gallery, a mini-theatre, and a catering kitchen.

9. The Transfort bus system began in 1974 and the Care-a-Van system was created to provide transportation for the elderly and the handicapped.

10. Regional parks constructed during Art’s tenure as city attorney included Edora Park (1971), Lee Martinez Park (1976), and Roland Moore Park (1983). Golf courses built include Collindale Golf Course (1971) and Southridge Golf Course (1984). Southridge was constructed by Bucain Corporation, who March represented after Fort Collins retained in-house counsel. It was later was sold to Fort Collins. See www.fcgov.com/parks/parks-established-dates.php.

11. Fort Collins Time Line 1970, history.fcgov.com/archive/timeline/ 1970.php.

12. Commodity Futures Trading Comm’n v. Chilcott Portfolio Mgmt., Inc., 713 F.2d 1477 (10th Cir. 1983).

13. Johnson v. Chilcott, 590 F.Supp. 204 (D.Colo. 1984).

14. CFTC v. Chilcott Commodities Corp., Civil Action No. 81-F-999 (D.Colo. 1982). Chief Judge Finesilver appointed James P. Johnson as receiver.

15. Johnson v. Chilcott, 599 F.Supp. 224 (D.Colo. 1984).

16. Interview with James P. Johnson on April 5, 2016, in Fort Collins.

17. Fort Collins Downtown Development Authority was represented by separate counsel. Art was appointed to serve on the Authority’s original board and acted tirelessly as a member of the board during the early stages, including as a liaison between the city, based on his prior ties as city attorney, and the newly formed Authority.

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