Rocky Mountain News


Arnold Lamm, former governor's father

Published May 12, 2006 at midnight

Arnold Lamm taught his children there are four things in life more important than all others.

Be healthy. Find a life partner. Pursue your passion. Have children.

That formula worked out especially well for former Colorado governor Dick Lamm, who, at 70, is the oldest of his father's three sons.

"He was a wonderful, creative man," Dick Lamm said.

Arnold Lamm died April 25 of natural causes in Denver. He was 98.

Mr. Lamm was born in Freeport, Ill., on Feb. 4, 1908.

He was the first of his parents' nine children to go to college, despite dropping out of high school to help support the family as a Western Union telegraph operator.

He met his wife, Mary, just after graduating from the University of Wisconsin.

After working for a short time as an auditor for the Wisconsin Tax Commission, he was hired by a Chicago coal company.

Having found success in the industry, he persuaded a bank to loan him $1 million in 1947 to invest in equipment for strip mining in Ohio and West Virginia, and moved the family to Pittsburgh.

But he was dissatisfied with the equipment. So he and his business partners at Sunnyhill Coal Co. invented a better machine.

They bought a surplus U.S. Army tank, stripped it down to its chassis, attached rotating blades to the front, and installed a conveyor belt over its back that could stretch to the entrance of an underground coal seam.

In less than two minutes, it could extract nearly 5 tons of coal - about the daily production rate of the average U.S. coal miner at the time, according to Time magazine.

The Colmol, as it came to be known, helped mechanize the coal industry and was at one time displayed at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

Mr. Lamm liked challenges. When he was 14, Dick Lamm bet the pack-a-day patriarch that he couldn't quit smoking.

"He took that cigarette out of his mouth and snuffed it out and he never had another," Lamm said. "And he suffered. He walked around the block and ate candy."

Mr. Lamm, a Republican, retired and moved to Naples, Fla., in 1969, where he served on the city council for six years, in part to manage growth, and helped found the city's first Planned Parenthood.

In 1975, Dick Lamm became Colorado's governor, prompting his self-deprecating father to later proclaim himself "a block off the old chip," despite his son's being a Democrat.

After his third and final term, the governor and his brother Tom, who also lived in Denver, persuaded their parents to move to Park Place, at 111 Emerson St., in 1988.

Mary Lamm died in 1991. For the next 15 years, Arnold Lamm exercised daily and became known at Park Place as an "Old World gentleman," always holding doors for ladies, Dick Lamm said.

"He was one of the great men of our time," Tom Lamm said. "But my son said it best. He said, 'Papa was a lamb and papa was a lion and papa was everything in between.' Everyone should have a father like him."

In addition to sons Dick and Tom Lamm, of Denver, Mr. Lamm is survived by his third son, Terry Lamm, of Albuquerque; two brothers, Victor Lamm, of Washington state, and Warren Lamm, of Madison, Wis.; six grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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