Guest Columns

SMITH: AN ADAMS COUNTY ANGEL HAS PASSED AWAY

Jean Marks was a wonderful public servant

Contributing Columnist

Jean and Floyd Marks. What an odd couple! Yet they were both such good friends and so pivotal to the very special years that Julie and I spent in Adams County.

Floyd was the District Attorney that snowy morning in the spring of 1966 when, as a senior law student, I drove from Boulder to Brighton to assist Adams County Public Defender (and now Federal District Judge) in the insanity trial of a man named Lyle Dale Surratt. Entering that courtroom was a surreal experience. There was District Judge Jean Jacobucci, Harlan Bockman, the very capable Assistant District Attorney, the mousy looking Surratt, John Kane, of course, and Dr. Henry Frey, the psychiatrist who probably did more than anyone to develop the concept of community mental health centers in Colorado.

And then there was Floyd who would come storming in and out, slamming a swinging door so hard that it broke off his hinges.

I knew that this was where I wanted to practice law.

And then there was Jean who was always so calm and reserved, a counterpoint to Floyd.

We later served together in the Colorado House of Representatives where her calm demeanor, good judgment, careful preparation and quiet sense of humor made her highly effective. When she talked about an issue, we listened because we knew that she was prepared, that she wasn’t one to waste words.

Adams County was a strange place then. (I think that it still is.) My effete Denver friends would ask, “How can you stand it out there?” Well, for all the scandals and infighting, Adams County was actually a hotbed of social change in those years. Where did the idea of a statewide Public Defender’s system come from? Or community mental health, residential alcohol treatment like Washington House or residential settings for the developmentally disabled? Adams County. Those advances came about because of quietly effective leaders like Jean Marks. She was a wonderful public servant and will be missed.

Morgan Smith served with Jean Marks in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1975 to 1978.