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TCL > July 1999 Issue > Jack Jenkins

July 1999       Vol. 28, No. 7       Page  5
Six of the Greatest

Jack Jenkins
by Dale Tursi

Judge Tursi was a judge on the Colorado Court of Appeals from 1981 to 1994 and serves as senior judge for the Court of Appeals. Judge Tursi practiced with Jack Jenkins in Pueblo for five years.tcl-1999july-jenkins

 

Jack Jenkins was orphaned at seven and was blinded while a senior in high school. Despite this, he graduated with his class from Central High School in Pueblo, Colorado. A few years later when Pueblo Junior College opened, he enrolled and graduated with top honors and then enrolled in the University of Colorado Law School. There he maintained an excellent academic record and was on the board of the law review. On graduation, Jack returned to Pueblo, started a law practice, and continued to practice until his death in 1989 at age 72. He had true grit, intelligence, humor, and perseverance.

Early Years

After an unhappy stay in an orphanage in Denver, Jack and his brother Jim were rescued by their grandmother and returned to Pueblo. The grandmother did all she could for the boys, even though she had limited resources and ability to supervise them. Although Jack’s vision was always suspect, he was an excellent all-around athlete and an all-state lineman. An incident in a football game led to his total loss of sight.

When questioned about his successful rehabilitation, Jack attributed it to the support he was given by the community of Pueblo. The community raised money for two operations that it hoped would save his sight. When this failed, the city of Pueblo arranged to send him to a school for the blind, where Jack learned to work with leather. Although, at that time, Colorado had been allocated only eight seeing-eye dogs, the community raised the necessary $1,000 to buy one for him. With his dog, Speedy, Jack was able to walk the neighborhoods selling his leather purses, wallets, and belts. To broaden his market area, the local transit company issued a special and singular permit allowing Speedy to ride the street cars.

When the junior college opened in Pueblo, Jack enrolled as a pre-law student. Of particular importance in his decision to pursue a career in law was the help he received from Gordon Bartley and Ben Koperlik and their wives. Both of these men were well-regarded lawyers in the Pueblo bar. Jack also received help from the National Youth Authority Program, which provided a small stipend. More importantly, however, the Program supplied readers so crucial to his needs as a student. Over the years, these readers and Jack became very close. Two of them later practiced law with him: Gordon Hinds had read for him at the junior college and Franklin Stewart had read for him in law school.

Pueblo Law Practice

Jack commenced his practice in 1945 and, by accepting and working on retail and wholesale debt collections, built one of the strongest commercial practices in Southern Colorado. However, in later years, he became an advocate for the working poor—those who neither qualified for legal aid nor had money enough for the usual retainer.

In his practice, several students who read for him after school and during the summers became lawyers. These include Joe Losavio, Gus Sanstrom, and Jim Croshal. A number of student readers became legal secretaries and, under his tutelage, those who so chose became very accomplished paralegals. In addition to his practice, Jack made time to serve as the president of the Pueblo Bar Association, member of City Charter Advisory Committee, member of the Colorado House of Representatives, board member of the Legal Aid Society, board member of the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind, and as U.S. Commissioner for Southern Colorado.

I was invited to join the firm of Jenkins and Stewart in 1954, and we practiced together for several years. Judge Charles Pierce then joined the firm. His affection and admiration for Jack continues to this day. After I left the firm, Jack and I remained very close friends. We did so many things together that, at times, I would forget that he was blind. For example, when Never on Sunday, one of my all-time favorite movies came to the theater, I convinced him to see it with me. There was a theater off the lobby in the building where Jack practiced. A few minutes into the film, Jack hit me in the ribs with his elbow and said, "Turs, my Greek isn’t worth a damn and your description of Melina Mecouri hasn’t done a thing for my sight. I’m going back upstairs." I had taken a blind man to see a Greek language film with subtitles!

Jack’s office was always well stocked with food and beverages. In addition, it had a most comprehensive collection of recorded music and plays. The music included all the great symphonies and operas, the great swing bands, jazz, and folk music. The sole type of music he refused to buy was rock. The record collection also contained most of the recorded plays of Shakespeare and Chekov, as well as Broadway plays. Because of his deep interest in Hamlet, he had the Olivier, Evans, and Scofield performances. By the use of recorded books, magazines, and readers, Jack was the best read individual I have ever known.

Jack’s office became an after-work gathering place for fellow members of the bar. Once the bottle was uncorked, no area of discussion was taboo—except law. Literature, sports, music, politics, and religion were always hot topics. After the bottle had been uncorked a while, the recitation of poetry often occurred. Jack had committed the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam to memory, and Jim Phelps would pitch in with poems by Kipling and Service.

A True Advocate

No story about Jack should end without a recitation of his skillful advocacy. Although these examples occurred in a court not of record, the following is an accurate report.

Two soldiers from Fort Carson had spent the evening at the Anchor Inn in Pueblo. At closing time they left and turned down the alley along side of the Anchor Inn. One of them answered the call of nature. The police had staked out the tavern hoping to catch the owners in an after-hour violation. Failing this, however, with the use of their spotlight, they were able to see the soldier "indecently exposing himself" and so charged him. As charged, the soldier would face a court martial if found guilty. Jenkins was hired for the defense in police court. The city put on its case and rested. Jenkins then addressed the court as follows:

Your honor, I move for judgment of acquittal. I ask the court to take judicial notice of the area in which this incident occurred. This is not fictitious notice because I know you were born and raised in Pueblo. The Anchor Inn is between 7th and 8th on the west side of Main Street and on the north side of the alley. On the south side of the alley is the Deremer Hotel. Appended to the front of the hotel is a sign reading "Pueblo County Democratic Headquarters." Your honor, as the public records of Pueblo disclose, you are the only Republican judge in Pueblo County and you surely appreciate the rights of this young man to freedom of political expression.

The motion was granted.

At a later case in the same court, Jack was retained to defend a client who was charged with purveying pornography. The evidence was a stack of postcards with pen-drawn efforts at humor. After ruffling through the cards several times, Jenkins, who was reputed never to misstate facts or law, again made a motion for judgment of acquittal. "Your honor, I tell you in all candor, I see nothing pornographic here." Although there was no ruling from the bench, I have been assured that no penalty was imposed.

 

The author wishes to thank Jack’s widow, Patricia, and his children, Sally and Randy, for supplying him with materials on Jack’s childhood and to thank Jim Croshal for his commitment to a proper recognition of Jack as a lawyer and a human being.

 

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