UCB Libraries

Klauder: Buckingham Library

Featured Collections:
         Wayne N. Aspinall Collection

Wayne Norviel Aspinall, born April 3, 1896 in Middleburg, Ohio, came to Colorado in 1904 when his parents engaged in the peach-orchard industry at Palisade.  In 1919 he graduated with a BA from the University of Denver and after teaching for two years, he returned to D.U. and earned a law degree in 1925. Back in Palisade he followed his parents into the peach-orchard industry while practicing law, until he was elected State Representative as a Democrat in 1930.   He became speaker of the Colorado House in 1937 and, in 1938, he won election to the State Senate.


Mr. Aspinall's State Senate career continued until November, 1948, when he was elected Colorado's Fourth District representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Two years later he was named to the House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee and rose to be chairman of the Irrigation and Reclamation Subcommittee before becoming chairman of the entire, powerful Interior and Insular Affairs Committee in 1959.  Known as "Mr. Chairman" he held this position until the end of his political career in 1973.


Wayne Aspinall, only the second Coloradoan to head a House Committee, exemplified Western values.  He well knew the value of water and as "Mr. Chairman" became the architect of western  reclamation, which helped bring water to a thirsty and developing West.   Wayne Aspinall sponsored the Colorado River Storage Act which led to the construction of the Glen Canyon, Flaming Gorge, Navajo and Curecanti reservoirs.  He sponsored the Colorado River Basin Project Act which authorized the Dallas Creek, Animas-La Plata, West Divide, San Miguel, Dolores and Central Arizona project.  Amongst many other projects, he was involved with the Fryingpan-Arkansas, Collbran, Silt, Paonia, South Forks and the Florida Project near Durango and he also played a leading role in the enactment of the 1964 Wilderness Act.


More than once Mr. Aspinall's Fourth District was re-apportioned. In 1964 the Fourth District grew from twenty-four counties to thirty-five with the addition of heavily Republican counties in northeastern Colorado.  Wayne Aspinall was re-elected by increasingly larger margins and was known as "Landslide Aspinall."   His string of political successes continued until 1972, when he lost the Democratic Primary.


Wayne N. Aspinall married Julia Edith Kuns in 1920.  They had three sons:  Wayne, Jr. (who died in 1979), Owen and Richard and a daughter, Ruth Jo Anne.  Following Julia Aspinall's death in 1969, Mr. Aspinall married long time Grand Junction friend Essie Jeffers Best in 1970.  Esssie Aspinall died August 5, 1983 and Wayne Aspinall died October 9, 1983.


After leaving office Mr. Aspinall returned to legal work with his son Owen.  He was chairman of Club 20's Natural Resources Committee, a board member of the Mountain States Legal Foundation and an AMAX and Federation of Rocky Mountain States consultant, among many activities. He also taught at the University of Wyoming. 


The eighty three linear feet in the Wayne N. Aspinall Collection consist mainly of Colorado files. His Washington, DC papers are held by the University of Denver. The University of Colorado Aspinall Collection contains legislative profiles and biographical information, legal files from the 1930's - 1940's, election files 1952-1972, Grand Junction office files 1953-1972, Correspondence and Files 1973-1983, Speeches 1973-1982, personal materials and memorabilia, Scrapbooks and Albums, Photographs, and oversize material.


This collection has been heavily used by numerous scholars on western water and environmental issues, including Stephen C. Sturgeon, The Politics of Western Water: the Congressional Career of Wayne Aspinall, Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2002; and Steven C. Schulte, Wayne Aspinall and the Shaping of the American West, Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2002.