Gale Norton The Little Cowpoke Goes to Washington


Gale Norton was born in Witchita Kansas but
always knew that living in the west not the midwest was her destiny. She always had the urge to keep moving and
when she was five she and her parents did make a big move to Thorton, Colorado. Gale’s first career goal was to become a cowpoke
and she always wanted a horse, however that dream eluded her even as she embraced the
western way of life as lead singer in a country western band and then as a proud campfire
girl where she soon realized that she hated going door to door to sell candy, especially
with no horse to get her there. Later in life Gale tried some variation of
her equine ambitions. First, with a camel, too mean. Next, with a snake, no saddle and even with
an elephant. Although her way of riding didn’t fit the
standard the elephant would become an important part of her career. Animals have always remained an important
part of her life and while she has tried all kinds of other forms of transportation when
she finally had a chance to realize her childhood dream things went sadly awry. So, Gale and I had an opportunity to be in
the Rose bowl parade through Take Pride in America, a very fun event. We were out there with our horses at o-dark-thirty,
lined up, ready to start the parade and at one point she said, “you know he just stepped
on my foot,” but she didn’t say anything more than that so we just got on our horses and
we rode down the Colorado Boulevard parade route and we got to the end of the parade
and people were doing photos and you know wanting to visit with her and Gale is usually
so good about that and she suddenly looked at me and she said that she had broken her
foot or her toes. She said, “I’m in excruciating pain.” Throughout this entire parade, she had never
said anything about her foot hurting, she had never said she was in pain, but we had
a wonderful time anyway and she smiled and was her usual gracious self, notwithstanding
the fact that she had broken a toe. Getting back to her formative years Gale changed
her focus from riding the range to readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic. She graduated salutatorian in her class from
Thornton high school. She whizzed through the University of Denver
undergrad program in just three years, first in mass comm and then poly-sci. Her job as a reporter for the DU Clarion gave
a somewhat subtle hint to her future political leanings. Scoring a perfect 800 on the LSAT, Gale went
on to law school at the University of Denver College of Law. She showed her great talent for leadership
and inspiration with her law school study group. At DU Gale’s favorite professor was Andy Popper
who taught transportation law and antitrust. The year after she graduated Professor Popper
left DU and Gale filled in as interim faculty director of DU’s transportation law program. She remembers it being a challenge during
this period of transportation deregulation. She would have to tell students, “remember
what we learned last week? It’s just been repealed.” Next, Gale embarked on her decades-long public
serving career. First, at Mountain States Legal Foundation
where she represented western state ranchers and defended Colorado’s automobile’s emissions
program. In 1983 she was selected as a national fellow
at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and enjoyed living in San Francisco. By the mid 80’s she switched coasts when she
was appointed to several positions in the Reagan administration. Then in 1987 Gale came home to Denver to begin
a solo law practice. In 1990 she was elected as the first female
Attorney General of Colorado during her eight-year tenure she argued two cases before the
United States Supreme Court. She flirted with politics and ran for the
US Senate in 1996, but her ambition was thwarted by a horse veterinarian; foiled again by the
horse. On the day before Christmas in 2000 Gale got
a call from the Presidents office, asking her to interview for the job of Secretary
of the Interior. She thought she didn’t have much of a chance
but decided to fly to D.C. to have an interesting life experience. After an intense vetting process, she landed
the job with a 3/4th majority vote in the Senate. Gale established a policy of cooperative conservation
during her term at the interior. She helped forge the Colorado River Compact
and the healthy forest initiative. she chaired the National Park Foundation and
the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. That handsome fellow next to Laura Bush is
Gale’s husband, John Hughes. John and Gale met at a libertarian party function. Gale was coordinating volunteers for the Libertarian
Party events so she made sure that John was put on her team so they could get acquainted. The very first Libertarian I’d ever met was
Gale and we get along and we decided that it would be work as a team to do things like
pass out literature for a presidential candidate. At that time our presidential candidate was
Ed Clark, so Gale and I were going to some of the rougher parts of town passing out the
door to door literature, canvassing for the Clark campaign and later on I found out that
wasn’t just by accident. They could have split us up into teams differently,
but I guess evidently Gale was campaigning to get me on her team. That was perfectly ok with me too. Despite her long career as a public servant
with much of it in Washington Gale has remained that little Colorado cowpoke at heart. While serving as the Attorney General she
took on the western icon known as the Marlboro Man, representing Colorado in the tobacco
industry settlement. She even recruited the ultimate cowboy, Clint
Eastwood to work with her Department of Interior Take Pride in America program. Suddenly, Gale and I were standing there with
a glass of wine and the next thing we knew, Clint had just walked up to the stairs and
had walked into the room and suddenly we had Clint Eastwood at our small gathering. And I said to Gale, whatever else we do in
our careers from here on it’s all downhill. This is as good as it gets. The post-Washington years have been anything
but quiet for Gale. She has held positions at Brownstein Hyatt
Farber Schreck, been the general counsel for Royal Dutch/Shell as they develop oil shale
in western Colorado, serves on the board of directors of the American Transmission Company
and continues her passion for cooperative conservation as she and John explore the world. President Bush could not join us here this
evening, but he did send a note of personal congratulations. He and the first lady also invited Gale to
come down to the Crawford ranch to ride with them provided Gale wears, “steel-toed boots
before getting anywhere near the horses. From Cowpoke to cabinet member, Gale Norton
has excelled in all areas of her career and all of us at Denver Law is very proud to honor
her here this evening. please help us salute the recipient of the
2014 DU Law Stars Outstanding Alumni Award, Gale Norton.

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