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TCL > December 2009 Issue > The Steele Story—A Part of Colorado’s History

December 2009       Vol. 38, No. 12       Page  15
In and Around the Bar
The SideBar

The Steele Story—A Part of Colorado’s History
by William H. Erickson

About the Author

Hon. William A. Erickson, retired Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, served from 1971 to 1996. He graduated from Colorado School of Mines in 1947 as a Petroleum Engineer, and was awarded the Distinguished Medal in 1990 and an Honorary Doctor of Engineering degree in 2002. In 1950, Erickson earned his JD degree from the University of Virginia Law School, where he was an honorary member of the Coif. He practiced law in Denver from 1951 until he became the third merit appointment to the Court in 1971. The Colorado Bar Association presented him the Award of Merit in 1989. Justice Erickson chaired the National Commission for the Review of Federal and State Laws relating to wiretapping and electronic surveillance, and filed a five-volume report with President Gerald Ford and the U.S. Congress. He also chaired Colorado Governor Bill Owens’s Columbine Review Commission in 2001 and, in 1977, the Erickson Commission Report on Law Enforcement’s Use of Deadly Force in Denver. Justice Erickson thanks Daniel B. Cordova, librarian with the Colorado Supreme Court Law Library, for his assistance in preparing this article.


Walter (Bill) Arundel Steele died on May 27, 2008, at the age of 85. He was one of the finest and most respected trial lawyers in Denver. He died two days after the passing of his older brother, Robert (Bob) Wilbur Steele III, who was a nationally known forestry expert. Bob Steele obtained his PhD in Forest Fire Science from Colorado State University, and was a professor of Forestry at Montana University for many years. Bill and Bob Steele were sons of Colorado District Court Judge Robert W. Steele, Jr. and Alice Arundel Steele; grandsons of Chief Justice Robert Wilbur Steele; and great-grandsons of Dr. Henry K. Steele.1

This "story" is a chronological history of the Steele family in Colorado. This family’s history coincides with the history of Colorado before and after it became a state. A brief discussion of Colorado history is provided to establish frame of reference for the Steele family, as well as for the discussion that occurs later about the future home of the Colorado judicial department and its impact on the Steele family legacy.

A Brief Colorado History

The Civil War was over. Many veterans returned to their homes in the North and the South, bitter and broke with financial burdens and obligations that could not be met. The Louisiana Purchase made vast amounts of land west of the Mississippi River open for homesteading, mining, and development. Stories flourished about the gold discoveries in California in 1849 and the fortunes made by filing the first mining claims in California. The silver discoveries and mining boom in Colorado produced a lot of prospectors.

Many men and women accepted the advice to "Go West, young man, and grow up with the country."2 Homesteading presented families with opportunities to obtain the title to land for farming or ranching without paying cash for the value of the land. Of interest here, Henry Cordes Brown, spurred by his failure in the first California Gold Rush, left his home in Ohio with his wife in a second attempt to strike it rich. On his way to California, they passed through Denver and, inspired by the beauty of Colorado, he was confronted by his wife’s statement: "Mr. Brown, thou may press on to California if such be thy wish. I shall stay here."3

The Capitol Building Project

The Browns made Denver their home and homesteaded the 160 acres known as Brown’s Bluff or Capitol Hill. To raise the worth of his other property, he donated ten acres to the capitol building project. Disputes as to where the state capitol should be located delayed Colorado’s pursuit of statehood. Brown attempted to revoke his gift.4 A constitutional convention and a petition was filed on July 1, 1876 that permitted President Grant to proclaim on August 1, 1876 that Colorado was the Centennial State and the thirty-eighth state of the United States. In terms of population, there has never been any question about Colorado’s growth potential. For example, in 1870, the census reported Colorado’s population to be 39,864. The 1880 census reported a population of 194,327. The 2008 census reported a population of 4,193,962.5

The ten acres donated by Brown to the State Board of Capitol Managers6 became the site of the Colorado State Capitol and the Civic Center Park around the Capitol Building (cornerstone laid on July 4, 1890, dome completed in 2008). The Colorado State Capitol was built to provide space for Colorado’s three branches of government. It had executive office space for the governor and chambers and office space for the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as hearing rooms. The judiciary had a Supreme Court Courtroom, chambers for its seven Justices and their clerks, a Supreme Court library, and offices for the administration and execution of the laws enacted by our General Assembly.7

Since 1977, the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals and the Colorado Supreme Court library were located in the Colorado Judicial Building, which will be torn down in May 2010 and replaced with a new judicial building, named the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Complex (Carr Complex). The new judicial complex is scheduled to be completed in 2015. The judicial department will be required to contract or lease space for its operation until the Carr Complex is available for occupancy.

The Pioneers

Steele family members were true Colorado pioneers. Dr. Henry King Steele made enormous contributions to the medical profession in the city of Denver and in the state of Colorado during the end of the 19th century. The pioneer quality extends to Dr. Steele’s son, grandson, and great grandchildren. Their participation in the growth and development of the law and the legal profession in Colorado is without question. Their pioneer spirit also extends to contributions to and participation in the enjoyment of Colorado’s vast wilderness areas.

Dr. Henry K. Steele (1825–1893)

Dr. Henry K. Steele served in the U.S. Army as a surgeon during the Civil War. He was discharged on November 10, 1869, and moved his family from Ohio to Colorado in 1870. He was the first doctor to set up a practice west of the Mississippi, and the first doctor in Colorado to administer antitoxin. The Steele residence in Denver was located at what is now 16th and Stout Streets. At that time, this was the heart of Denver’s residential district. Dr. Steele practiced medicine in Denver. He founded the Colorado Medical Society and was Dean of its medical department. He also was Professor of Surgery at the University of Denver and served as Health Commissioner for the City of Denver. After his death in 1893, the Steele Memorial Hospital was named to honor his service.

Robert Wilbur Steele (1857–1910)

Dr. Steele’s son, Robert Wilbur Steele, was born in Lebanon, Ohio on November 14, 1857. Robert obtained his early education in Dayton, Ohio. In 1872, after relocating with his family to Denver, he was one of seven students who made up the first graduating class of Arapahoe High School, which is known today as East High School.

Robert was a member of the Lyceum Club in high school, which gave students an opportunity to develop debating skills. As a member of the club, he participated in the high school’s first debates. Once appearing before Denver’s City Council, Robert argued that closing saloons on Sunday would deprive them of a right granted by their license and would deny them rights afforded to other café and food outlets.

After graduation, he played left field on a semi-professional baseball team known as the Brown Stockings, and continued to participate in politics as a Silver Republican.8 He attended the law department at Columbian University in Washington, DC9 during 1878 and 1879, but did not graduate.

Robert read the law and was admitted to the Colorado Bar in 1881. From 1880 to 1889, he served as a clerk of the Arapahoe County Court. In 1884, he resigned his position to practice law full time. He formed the partnership of Steele and Malone, and had an office in the prestigious Tabor Opera House in Denver.

Robert married Anna B. Truax of Toledo, Ohio on February 28, 1884. They had two children, Jane G. and Robert, Jr. Judge Steele built their family home at 11th Avenue and Washington Street. At the time, this location was zoned outside the Denver city limits (Arapahoe County) but had Denver water.

Denver was a pioneer silver mining town when Robert first arrived in Colorado. At their Washington Street home, cowboys were often in the area looking for strays.

Robert had spent childhood summers at a cousin’s ranch in the San Luis Valley, nurturing a love of working the land. It’s no surprise, then, that in 1888, he homesteaded a 160-acre ranch located between Exposition and Mississippi Avenues in southwest Denver.

In 1894, he was elected Denver District Attorney. When his term expired in 1895, he accepted an appointment to the Denver County Court. He stood for election to the county court in 1895 and again in 1898.

As a county court judge, he administered the first laws enacted that dealt with juvenile offenders. His innovations led to the creation of Denver’s juvenile court. In the fall of 1890, Robert was elected to serve on the Colorado Supreme Court. He was seated on the high court in 1901. He became Chief Justice in 1907 and served in that office until suffering a fatal heart attack three years later.

In Judge Steele’s day, adults and children were treated the same in court. Judge Steele’s concern for children moved him to establish a Juvenile Field Day in court. He wanted "not to punish, but to help" children.10 His successor, Judge Ben B. Lindsey, known as the father of the juvenile court system, cited Steele as an influence and inspiration.11 Concern for civil liberties and upholding the Constitution brought him nationwide acclaim when his was the only dissenting opinion in In re Moyer,12 which involved suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.

When he died on October 12, 1910, Judge Robert W. Steele was 53 years old. Governor John Shafroth ordered flags flown at half-mast for four weeks, and Colorado government offices were closed while his body lay in state at the capitol. To recognize his service to the Court, a stained glass window portraying him as Chief Justice was placed above the Bench in the courtroom of the Supreme Court in the State Capitol Building.13 In addition, Lake View, a school in the planning stages at the time of Judge Steele’s death, would be named in his honor. Steele Elementary School still stands at 320 S. Marion Street in Denver.14 His widow Anna donated a plaque, his portrait, a flag, and 600 books to the school.

Robert W. Steele, Jr. (1891–1969)

Robert W. Steele, Jr. (Robert, Jr.) was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. He also graduated from East High School and chose the law as his profession. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from Princeton University in 1913 and his law degree at the University of Denver College of Law in 1916. He married Alice V. Arundel, his high school sweetheart, in 1916.15 Robert, Jr. practiced law in a partnership with Boswell Freed in Denver from 1916 to June 30, 1927, when he was appointed by the Denver County Commissioners as juvenile court judge. His appointment came in 1927, after the Colorado Supreme Court declared that the re-election of Judge Ben Lindsey by a narrow margin in 1924 over Royal R. Graham was obtained by election fraud and ordered Lindsey’s ouster.16 Robert, Jr. was appointed to fill the vacancy after Graham died.17

Judge Lindsey’s twenty-seven years on the juvenile court Bench had been highly publicized and praised by the news media, and his removal was not well received. When Robert W. Steele, Jr. was sworn in, thirteen of Lindsey’s clerks resigned. Lindsey stated that he had been fighting bigotry and injustice for twenty years and would continue the fight, but would support and help Judge Steele.18 Judge Lindsey introduced Judge Steele to the media and told those present in the courtroom that he would assist him as Denver’s juvenile court judge. Judge Steele stated that his wife Alice would assist him in his work on the court, just as Henvie H. Brovecort Lindsey had helped her husband, Ben Lindsey.19 When Judge Steele was sworn in, he announced that the court would not seek publicity, and would "shun the spotlight."20

Judge Steele was re-elected to the juvenile court after sixteen months of service. He then was elected to serve as a district court judge for the Second Judicial District (2nd J.D.). He was re-elected several times and served for six terms. Ultimately, his total service on the Bench in one capacity or another comprised forty-two years. While he was presiding judge of the 2nd J.D. court, he commenced his report on the status of the court with this observation:

A lot of things have happened to me since becoming a judge. I have been praised and cursed, affirmed and reversed. I have seen my picture in the Hall of Fame on the back page one week and have been roasted on the editorial page the next. I have been sued for damages in the Federal Court by a disgruntled litigant. I have been threatened with bodily injury verbally and with a double-barreled shotgun. I have been alluded to in the first part of an opinion of the Supreme Court as "the learned trial judge," only to see it demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt in the rest of the opinion that, so far as the law involved in that particular case was concerned, I had never learned a thing.21

In January 1931, Judge Steele was assigned the Roy Best case in Cañon City and had trouble getting to his chambers because the courthouse was packed with supporters of the popular warden. Best was charged with theft of twenty-eight sheets of plywood from the prison for use on his ranch and for violating the civil rights of a prisoner at the Colorado Penitentiary. When Judge Steele entered the courtroom, silence prevailed. He seated himself in the judge’s chair, which rotated out from under him and dumped him on the floor. He managed to get back in the chair and onto the Bench. He said, "The court has lost its equilibrium, but not its jurisdiction. Proceed." After a long trial, Warden Best was acquitted.

Judge Steele stated in an interview by The Denver Post at the time of his twenty-fifth anniversary as a Denver District Court Judge:

It’s a great job. Every time that gavel comes down the curtain goes up. Sometimes it’s a wonderful play you see, sometimes a terrible one—but you never know. And the curtain goes up day after day, each promising to be more interesting than the last.22

Because of his love of the trial court and the daily drama that played out there, Judge Steele turned down several opportunities to run for a seat on the Supreme Court and even to fill a vacancy on the Court by appointment.

Judge Robert W. Steele, Jr. died on his 78th birthday. He was a juvenile court judge from 1927 to 1930 and served on the Denver District Court Bench from 1931 until his death in 1969. He was admired and revered by the members of the Bench, the Bar, and those who appeared before him in his court. He was the "Dean of the District Court Bench" and was never a publicity seeker. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws Degree by the University of Denver. Posthumously, he was awarded the 1913 Class Cup by Princeton University.23 He was a past President of the University Club (1937–38) and received the Denver Bar Association Award of Merit in 1964.24

Walter (Bill) Arundel Steele (1922–2008)

Bill Steele was the younger son of Robert W. Steele, Jr., and followed his father’s lead toward the practice of law. In addition to being an extremely competent trial lawyer, Bill was a good family man and a Bar leader. He graduated from Denver’s East High School in 1941 and matriculated at Princeton University. After completing his freshman year, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served as a navigator bombardier in the Aleutian Islands during World War II.

When the war ended, Bill returned from his tour of duty, and married his high school sweetheart, Patricia (Patsy) White. He returned to Princeton University and graduated summa cum laude in 1947, with Phi Beta Kappa honors. Bill was admitted to the University of Colorado Law School, where he graduated in 1949 with honors and was Order of the Coif.

After passing the Colorado Bar examination, Bill decided to practice law with his father-in-law, Lowell White. Four years later, in 1953, the law firm of White and Steele was formed, specializing in insurance defense work. By 1983, there were thirteen members of the firm (twelve men and one woman). Five decades later, White and Steele had grown into a law firm comprising thirty-six attorneys (thirty-two men and four women). In 2009, the firm comprises twenty-six attorneys (twenty-two men and four women).

Bill Steele had become successful not only as a lawyer, but also as a Bar leader. He served as President of the Colorado Bar Association (CBA) during 1964–65. He also was among the early proponents of a constitutional amendment that would provide for the appointment and retention of judges based on merit.25 The amendment would keep judges out of politics and politics out of the judiciary. The "Merit Plan" was a proposed amendment to the Colorado Constitution that created a new method for the selection, retention, and supervision of the judiciary. It was supported by a citizens committee that was jointly chaired by President Robert Sterns of the University of Colorado and Chancellor Chester Alter of the University of Denver. The judicial amendment was successfully adopted by the electorate at the polls. Chancellor Alter showed his support for the judicial amendment by serving on the nominating commission for the Colorado Supreme Court for more than a decade.

Bill was elected to fellowship in the American College of Trial Lawyers in 1965 and as President of the International Association of Defense Counsel in 1974. He received the CBA’s most prestigious honor, the Award of Merit, in 1981, and the William Lee Knous Award in 1994, which is the highest award offered by the University of Colorado Law School. He was President of the University Club in 1965. Earlier, in 1959, he presided over the University Club’s "Twelfth Night" production; that year, it was called "Klondike Kapers."

Bill Steele was a devoted husband to Patsy for sixty-five years. They had two children, Peter and Amy. Peter is County Attorney in Kalispell, Montana and has two sons; Amy lives in Athens, Georgia and has one son.

The White River

Robert W. Steele, Jr. was an outdoorsman and a fisherman. In the early 1900s, he took his son Bill to a remote section of White River National Forest on a camping and fishing trip. The Steeles tried to make an annual outing to the White River National Forest on Colorado Day (August 1).

When Robert, Jr. married Alice Arundel on July 21, 1916, they had their honeymoon in a meadow on the south fork of the White River. In 1920, the Steeles obtained a U.S. Forest Service permit on the meadow and intended to build a cabin there. In 1926, they commenced a two-year project that resulted in the construction of a log cabin near a spring, with a cement floor, a metal roof, and a two-hole privy or "necessary house." The cabin remains standing today and is located in a primitive wilderness area, not accessible by roads or motor vehicles. It is approximately fourteen miles from the nearest town of Buford.

The cement, metal roofing, and building materials had to be brought to the cabin site by horses and a buckboard. Levi Ward brought the materials to this remote site and helped the Steeles and their friends build the cabin and privy. The Steeles also have constructed a large open grill there. The Steeles named a fishing spot on the White River "Levi’s Hole." Many of the Steeles’ friends and the friends of sons Bob and Bill have visited the remote wilderness site. After Bill Steele married Patsy, they brought their friends to this site on the south fork of the White River. The river tumbles for nearly fifteen miles and is teeming with rainbow trout.

Today, the Steele campground, cabin, and privy are part of the public domain in the White River National Forest. The Steeles have had many visitors who share the joy and pleasures of this remote mountain site that is accessible only by foot or horseback. The visitors, now known as the "White River Clan," have included Cy Allen, Dr. Paul Barker, Dr. Robert Bosworth, Dayton Denious, Dick Downing, Dr. Bryon Dumm, Paul Fullerton, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Wiley Rutledge, Frank Traylor, Richard Tull, and Lowell White.

Langdon Larwell, who wrote his "Ode to the Necessary House" when he was on a White River trip, and Bob Kapelke,26 the poet laureate of the Colorado Bar, pride themselves on their visits to the Steele White River site on Colorado Day. As a tribute to Judge Bob Steele, in 1980 Bob Kapelke wrote the poem entitled "Heaven by the White River." It appears as a sidebar to this article.

Now that Bill Steele can no longer host the trek to the White River Paradise on Colorado Day, the task falls on the shoulders of Bill’s children. His son Peter especially is an outdoorsman and makes summer trips to the White River with his family.

Heaven by the White River
by Bob Kapelke

At Heaven’s door our spirits soar –
The woods and stream entice.
We pitch our tents and start to sense,
White River’s paradise.
A cabin crude but bravely hewed.
With reverence we can feel
The loving touch that meant so much –
The Dream of Judge Bob Steele.

Each trail salutes those canny Utes
Who trekked to healing springs,
And as we walk we spy a hawk
Who drifts on bronzen wings.
We so rejoice in Nature’s voice –
Its ancient, rich appeal;
With hawk and wren we live again
The Dream of Judge Bob Steele.

At Indian Ford we reap reward:
A brace of speckled trout!
With each surprise we realize
Just what the Dream’s about.
The coyote’s cry, the River’s sigh,
The marmots’ joyful squeal –
All blend in song as they prolong
The Dream of Judge Bob Steele.

In cooling shades of aspen glades
We pause to read a book
And chance upon a doe and fawn,
Who nestle by the brook.
A mossy stone provides a throne
To gaze on Nature’s weal,
Enrapturing and capturing
The Dream of Judge Bob Steele.

A flapjack stack with coffee black
To greet the chilly morn;
The evening dish is fresh-caught fish
With steaming buttered corn,
And whiskey pure is always sure
To celebrate each meal.
As each day ends we share as friends
The Dream of Judge Bob Steele.

With Levi’s ghost as friendly host,
We huddle ’bout the fire,
As history and mystery
Our tallest tales inspire.
The city’s blares and petty cares
Are distant and unreal;
The love we give helps us relive
The Dream of Judge Bob Steele.

Published with permission of
Robert (Bob) J. Kapelke.

The Steele Story Does Not End

I am proud to say that I was a good friend of Bill Steele. In my opinion, he exemplified what a lawyer should be. He was easy to talk to, a pleasure to work with, and a formidable adversary in the trial of a contested case. He was ethical, trustworthy, and amenable to settlement, but only when warranted. All lawyers and judges liked Bill, because he was always prepared, reasonable in conferences, and on time. He was a lawyer’s lawyer. His achievement as a lawyer reflects his uniform endorsement by other lawyers. He was a regent of the American College of Trial Lawyers. When he was CBA President, he accomplished all of the goals he had set for his presidential year. He was an outstanding president. He also was a good husband and a proud father and grandfather. He lived a full and complete life.

Judge Robert W. Steele, Jr. lived up to his nickname of Dean of the Denver District Court. I had the privilege of trying several cases in his court, and appeared in his court on a number of motions, settings, and other routine matters. He was pleasant, courteous, prepared, a good listener, and a fair and no-nonsense judge. In fact, he was one of the best trial judges I appeared before in twenty years of practice.

When I became a Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, oral arguments were held in the courtroom in the State Capitol Building, where the stained glass portrait of the late Chief Justice Robert Wilbur Steele was situated above the dais. On one occasion, I heard a lawyer say to his partner just after he made his oral argument that he did not believe Chief Justice Steele would have approved of his theory of defense. When I became Chief Justice, I was tempted to look up at the stained glass window to find out whether Chief Justice Steele approved of my taking his seat in the Court; I never had the courage to look.

In 1977, Chief Justice Edward Pringle agreed to vacate the space occupied by the judiciary in the State Capitol Building and to move the judicial departments to the proposed Colorado Judicial Building. It was agreed that the Colorado Supreme Court could remove the stained glass portrait of Chief Justice Steele from its space above the dais in the Supreme Court’s courtroom in the State Capitol. When the Colorado Supreme Court moved to the Colorado Judicial Building, the portrait was placed on the wall of the Colorado Supreme Court courtroom on the fifth floor of the Colorado Judicial Building.

Years after the courtroom was put into use, a vandal with a pellet gun put a hole in the stained glass window; I was assigned the task of restoring it. Unfortunately, stained glass experts said the window could not be restored because they would not be able to match the glass damaged in the portrait. When I called Bill Steele to report our loss, he mentioned that the Steele family had been given a smaller version of the stained glass by the artist. He was able to locate the replica, making it possible for the experts to restore the window that now appears in the Supreme Court courtroom. It was thought that this courtroom would be the final location of the Steele portrait, but we now know that a new judicial building will be constructed, so it may in fact be moved again.

Ralph L. Carr Judicial Complex

The judicial building that was completed in 1977 was built under budget limitations that caused one floor of the building and the underground parking garage to be eliminated from the original plans. Our Colorado population and the judicial case load were increased beyond all expectations, and a new judicial complex became a priority for Colorado.

Governor Bill Ritter supported legislation to construct a new judicial building and history museum, and has ordered the demolition of the existing structures. Interim quarters will have to be leased or obtained for both the judiciary and the museum. Demolition of the judicial building is scheduled for May 2010.

On June 4, 2008, Governor Ritter signed and approved legislation for the financing and construction of the Carr Complex that will occupy the entire block on which both the Colorado Judicial Building and the Colorado History Museum were built.

Governor Ritter stated in a press release issued on June 4, 2008:

The existing Supreme Court and History Museum buildings opened more than thirty years ago. They were outdated and obsolete from the day they opened, and they have not aged well since. Senate Bill 206 will allow us to create a state-of-the-art, dignified home for the judicial branch of state government and a modern facility to protect and showcase Colorado’s historical treasures. These two projects speak to the past and the future of Colorado.

Senate Bill 206 authorizes the financing to construct the Carr Complex on the block currently occupied by the Colorado Judicial Building and the Colorado History Museum. The 615,000-square-foot judicial complex will consolidate into one location the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Attorney General’s Office, and several other judicial and legal offices now located across multiple sites. The History Museum will be relocated to a new 200,000-square-foot facility one block south.

The project cost for the museum is slated to be $113 million, and it is scheduled for opening in 2011. The Carr Complex is estimated to cost $205 million and is scheduled to be completed by 2014. Arrangements for the operation of the Judicial Branch of Government from 2010 to 2014 have not been finalized. Fentress Architects will design the Carr Complex and a conceptual design will be completed by January 2010. Ground was broken for the construction of the new historical museum at Twelfth and Broadway on August 19, 2009.

The year 2009 marks the first year of Democratic President Barack Obama’s first term, as well as being a year encumbered by a deep recession and the nation’s first trillion dollar deficit. Stimulus legislation has been enacted by Congress to boost the economy and some federal funding may be secured to support the Carr Complex.

Funding for the Carr Complex is being provided primarily by the state’s sale of $338 million certificates of participation (COPs). The COPs were issued under the Recovery Act’s Build America program, which will result in the federal government subsidizing 35 percent of the interest and saving Colorado taxpayers $77 million. The total cost of the justice complex is anticipated to be $257 million. The imposition of higher court fees will pay for the justice complex.

Following the leveling of the existing judicial building, the appellate administrative offices, the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals courtrooms, the Supreme Court Law Library, and appellate judicial offices will be moved to a single location until 2014. Plans for the operation of the Colorado judicial department from 2010 to 2014 are being prepared, but as of this writing have not been finally determined.

The Steele family history is firmly entrenched in the legal history of the state of Colorado. One physical way of preserving the history of this esteemed family would be to include the stained glass portrait of Chief Justice Robert Wilbur Steele among the established relics in the Carr Complex. Thus, future generations of jurists, lawyers, and legal professionals may better understand and appreciate our hallowed halls of justice and the personages who lay the foundation many years ago.


1. Much of the biographical information in this article is derived from the Biographical Data Sheet for Robert W. Steele, Jr. (March 3, 1942) (on file with the Colorado Historical Society). See also Steele, "Robert W. Steele," 13 The Colorado Lawyer 1179 (July 1984); Steele and O’Donnell, "Robert W. Steele, Jr.," 20 The Colorado Lawyer 1349 (July 1991).

2. Horace Greeley popularized this phrase and frequently has been given attribution for coining it; however, he may simply have expanded on a phrase originally written by John B.L. Soule. See "Horace Greeley, Brilliantly Eccentric Editor of the New York Tribune," available at history

3. "Colorado State Capitol Virtual Tour, The Controversial Donor—Henry Cordes Brown," available at

4. See id.

5. See Division of Local Government, State Demography Office, available at

6. See "Colorado State Capitol Virtual Tour, The Colorado Board of Capitol Managers," available at

7. See "Colorado State Capitol Virtual Tour," available at

8. See

9. See "The GW and Foggy Bottom Historical Encyclopedia," available at

10. Wilder, Robert Wilbur Steele: Defender of Liberty (Carson-Harper Co., 1913).

11. For information about Judge Benjamin Barr Lindsey and juvenile courts in Colorado, see King, "Colorado Juvenile Court History: The First Hundred Years," 32 The Colorado Lawyer 63 (April 2003), available at

12. In re Moyer, 35 Colo. 159 (1905).

13. See Erickson, Early Justice and the Formation of the Colorado Bar 13 (CBA–CLE, 2008). Robert Wilbur Steele was Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. Interestingly, there was a Robert W. Steele who served as Territorial Governor of Jefferson (which later became part of the Territory of Colorado) in 1861; however, there was no relation between the two men. Chief Justice Steele was 2 years old in 1861, and Territorial Governor Steele died in 1890, the same year that Robert Wilbur Steele was elected to the Colorado Supreme Court Bench.

14. See

15. Albeck, "Who was Robert W. Steele?" available at

16. Graham v. Lindsey, 86 Colo. 240 (1929). This case was preceded by an original decision, People ex rel. Graham v. Lindsey, 80 Colo. 465 (1927). Graham never served because he died before the 1927 opinion was released.

17. "Judge Steele’s Appointment Beclouded by Clem Collins," The Denver Post 7 (July 3, 1927).

18. Strauss, "Lindsey Ousted from Juvenile Court and Robert W. Steele Reported His Successor," The Denver Post 1 (June 30, 1927). Investigation and prosecution of Lindsey for bribery ultimately resulted in Lindsey being disbarred.

19. "‘I’ll Do My Best’ Promises Steele, As he Takes Bench," The Denver Post 1m (July 2, 1927).

20. "New Juvenile Court Judge to Shun Spotlight," Rocky Mountain News 1 (July 2, 1927).

21. 31 Dicta 163 (May 1954).

22. Oschmann, "Judge Steele to Mark 25 years on Bench Here," Rocky Mountain News 40 (Jan. 8, 1956).

23. "Princeton Recognizes Judge Steele," The Denver Post 36C (June 8, 1969).

24. For a profile of Robert W. Steele, Jr., see Steele and O’Donnell, supra note 1.

25. See Hobbs, Jr., "Colorado Judicial Merit Selection—A Well-Deserved 40th Anniversary Celebration," 35 The Colorado Lawyer 13 (April 2006).

26. Hon. Robert J. Kapelke (retired with Senior status) was appointed to the Colorado Court of Appeals in 1993.

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