Colorado Senator Gloria Travis Tanner, First Black Woman To Serve, Dies At 86
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Gloria Travis Tanner, First Black Woman To Serve in Colorado Senate, Dies At 86

(Image: UCDenver.edu)

The honorable Gloria Travis Tanner, first Black woman to serve in the Colorado Senate, died Monday in her Denver home, CBS Denver reported. She was 86.

Born on July 16, 1934, in Atlanta, Tanner grew up in a neighborhood of activists, including Martin Luther King Jr. She followed the lead of her own mother when it came to caring for the community. Life during the Jim Crow-ridden 30s and 40s taught the trailblazing Colorado legislator the importance of making a difference in the world.

Gloria Travis Tanner marches in Denver’s Martin Luther King, Jr., parade along with other public service leaders and friends, including former Mayor Wellington Webb and his wife, Wilma Webb.
(Photo credit: Denver Public Library; Rocky Mountain News Photographic Archives; photographer: George Kochaniec, Jr.)

In the subsequent years, Tanner worked for Lt. Gov. George Brown and state Sen. Regis Groff before launching her own campaign for the Colorado House of Representatives, where she served five terms starting in 1984. A year later, in 1985, she became the second black representative to hold a leadership position as a minority caucus leader.

After Geoff retired in 1994, Tanner was appointed as his replacement. She became the first Black woman senator in Colorado history.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis and Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera released the following statement:

“We join fellow Coloradans in mourning the loss of the great Gloria Tanner, Colorado’s first African American woman to serve as a State Senator, and the second to be elected to a leadership position in the Colorado House of Representatives. Beyond her storied career spanning 17 years at the Capitol—fighting to pass landmark legislation to improve the lives of women and families—former Senator Tanner’s undying love for her community is manifest in her mission to shape emerging leaders. On the day that Gloria Tanner leaves our physical world behind, she also leaves doors of opportunity open for the next generation to make a profound difference, to be a part of the change.”

During her state legislature years, Tanner worked toward passing an abandoned baby law, civil rights for women, and minorities and parental rights for adoptive parents.

Tanner was the lead founder of Colorado Black Women for Political Action (CBWPA) and co-creator of NOBEL-Women (National Organization of Black Elected Legislators) headquartered in Washington, D.C. She was also a co-founder with Groff of the Colorado Black Roundtable (CBRT).

Later, she established the Senator Gloria Tanner Leadership and Training Institute for Future Black Women Leaders of Colorado in 2001. She was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame in 2022.

“Senator Tanner was a trailblazer whose determination and commitment to Colorado improved the lives of all people in our state, and I join Coloradans in mourning her passing,” Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, the chair of the Black Democratic Legislative Caucus of Colorado, said, according to The Denver Gazette. “Gloria’s tireless devotion to serving our community uplifted the lives of so many Coloradans and families. Gloria was a mentor to us all.“

Announcements of Tanner’s service will be announced.


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