JOHN ARTHUR LOVE was born in Gibson City, Illinois, on November 29, 1916. His family moved to Colorado five years later after John’s father, Arthur Candee Love, was diagnosed with a respiratory illness. He graduated with an A.B. from the University of Denver in 1938 and from the University of Denver Law School with a LL.B. in 1941. That same year, he passed the Colorado bar. World War II temporarily interrupted his professional law career. He enlisted in the Navy’s Aviation Cadet program and served as a U.S. Navy pilot, for which he was twice awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Following the war, he opened a law firm in Colorado Springs.
After the war, Colorado experienced unprecedented growth, especially in and around the urban areas. The economy became more dependent on industry and tourism rather than its traditional agriculture and mining orientation. While the economy began to diversify, a schism between the more populous Eastern Slope cities and Western Slope rural areas began to develop. Competition over Western Slope water became especially important. Because of these conditions, Colorado politics was in a state of flux in 1962 when Love decided to run for an office. His bid to become El Paso County Republican Chair, however, failed by one vote.
Shortly after this unsuccessful attempt, he decided to run for governor and won. During his unprecedented three terms he was responsible for attracting many businesses and jobs to Colorado as part of his “Sell Colorado” campaign. The tourist and ski industries also boomed. Colorado became more influential at a national political level as the state’s population grew and became more prosperous. The popularity of his “Sell Colorado” idea began to ebb in the late 1960s, however, as some Colorado leaders, notably Love, began to press for Colorado to be the site of the 1976 Winter Olympics.
In 1972 an initiative was passed that refused to allow any state money to be spent on financing the games. The environmental movement had strong support in Colorado where residents were fearful that their outstanding quality of life, based largely on the scenic mountain landscape, would be compromised if the Olympic developments were allowed to proceed. Despite Love’s support for the Olympics, his record concerning environmental protection was much more moderate than many conservative Republicans. He supported state land-use legislation and promoted careful growth.
He signed important air and water pollution acts in 1970 which reduced pollution and helped to protect the environment. Love increased state support for public schools and universities, and increased scholarships and tuition waivers for college students despite the fact that during his first term he supported a raise in college tuition. He also signed controversial bills legalizing abortion and making possession of a small amount of marijuana a misdemeanor. During his last term, Colorado set a nationwide precedence by passing the Sunshine Law, which opened government meetings to the public and set disclosure requirements. During one of the most contentious decades in the nation’s history because of the Vietnam War and civil rights disparities in the 1960s, Love was known for his moderation.
He was influential in keeping the state relatively undivided and continually prosperous. Governor Love served on the National Governors’ Conference Executive Committee from 1963 to 1964, and chaired the conference from 1969 to 1970. He resigned the governorship in 1973 to become the nation’s first director of the Office of Energy Policy for President Richard M. Nixon but resigned after five months due to much political bickering and feeling like he did not have enough to do. The upheaval of the Watergate scandal and the subsequent resignation of Nixon possibly influenced his decision to return to the private sector where he took a position on the board of directors for the concrete and potash maker, Ideal Basic Industries. He would later become the CEO of the firm while remaining counsel to the Denver law firm of Davis, Graham & Stubbs, and in addition taught history at the University of Northern Colorado. He died in Colorado, January 21, 2002 at the age of 85.
Governors of the American States, Territories and Commonwealths, National Governors' Conference, 1972.