According to his family, former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon’s death at 63 last night was a complete surprise.  His son, Ben, told The Denver Post that his father had a massive heart attack.

“I thought he was going to outlive us all,” Ben Gordon said. “He was the most fit person I knew. He was so strong.”

Born in 1950 in Detroit, he earned an academic resume — undergrad in economics and political science at the highly-respected University of Michigan, a law degree from Boston University—that would have allowed him to pursue almost anything he wanted.  Gordon, instead, became a public defender.  Even after starting his own practice, he felt a need to continue helping the less fortunate, taking on many cases pro bono.  This led Westword to name him its “Pro Bono Attorney of the Year” in 1988.  In 1992, he was first elected to the Colorado State Legislature, where he served as Assistant House Majority Leader, and Senate Majority and Minority Leaders.  He was highly respected for his statesmanship, as demonstrated by the many Facebook tributes to him from both sides of the aisle:

  • Republican State Sen. Greg Brophy: “I rarely agreed with Ken Gordon on policy, but I always found him agreeable. I good man who served the state and stood for his principles while still being fair to the minority. I always liked seeing him and will miss him.”
  • Former Democratic Speaker of the State House Terrance Carroll: “Ken Gordon was one of the finest people ever to serve in the legislature. For Ken, principle trumped politics.”
  • Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino: “A sad day today with the passing of Former Senator Ken Gordon. A truly principled politician who always fought for what he believed in. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
  • Democratic State Sen. Pat Steadman: “I’ve just learned about the death of former Senator Ken Gordon, who represented the same Denver-based district I do now. This is a great loss for Colorado. Ken served as Senate Majority Leader and House Minority Leader. His voice in Colorado politics will be missed.”
  • Political commentator Eric Sondermann: “Very sad to hear the news of Ken Gordon’s sudden passing. He was a good man of integrity and principle. We disagreed on nearly as much as we agreed upon – yet I never had the slightest doubt as to his motives, sincerity and good intent.”
  • Independence Institute’s Ben DeGrow: “From every impression I had of him, a decent and thoughtful fellow, far too much the exception in our politics today.”
Although not updated recently, Ken’s own words on his family can speak more true to the love and pride he had for them, than anything we can write:
“I have been blessed with two great children. Windy is a teacher in Denver Public Schools and gave birth to a daughter (my granddaughter), Aubrielle, on August 4th. My son Ben just graduated from New York University. My girlfriend, Betty Lehman, is the executive director of the Autism Society of Colorado. My former wife and the mother of my children, Helen Shreves, mediates family law issues.”

The Denver Post reported he was blessed by two more grandchildren, and to have been able to work with his son for the past six and a half years. Please keep Gordon’s family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.

UPDATE: Republican Leadership Offers Condolences to Gordon’s Family

  • Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman: “Ken’s sudden passing is a loss for all of Colorado; Ken was man of integrity who consistently fought for his beliefs. While we disagreed on policy, he served the Senate admirably, respecting the process and the members. Our prayers are with Ken’s family and loved ones.”
  • House Minority Leader Brian DelGrosso: ““I want to express my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Ken Gordon.  I admire his devotion to public service and the respect he earned among the members of the state legislature with whom he served.”