Don Friedman, state representative, radio personality

The Colorado Statesman

Take a glimpse at the photos below and you’ll see why so many people are remembering former state representative Don Friedman for his characteristic impish ways and true to form sense of humor. But along with those traits was a well intentioned man who earned the respect of many during his 83 years of life. Don died on Aug. 11 at a hospice in Englewood after a long illness.

A third generation Denverite who was a talk radio host on KOA, KIMN and KTLN over the years, politicos might more readily recall Don’s seven terms from 1962 to 1976 as a Republican state lawmaker from southeast Denver who at onetime chaired the powerful Joint Budget Committee. He retired from the Legislature in 1976 and ran for Congress, narrowly losing his race that year to a relative newcomer on the political scene, Democrat Pat Schroeder.

Don Friedman
March 21, 1930 - August 11, 2013

Jo Ann Hayes, a Young Republican from Denver at the time, remembered his distinct radio ads for his congressional bid.

Former state Representative Don Friedman, R-Denver, reads from a script during a skit at the Legislature back in the mid 1970s.
File photo by Morgan Smith/The Colorado Statesman

“When he ran for the House, his ad on the radio was: First voice: ‘When you go to the polls, don’t forget Don Friedman!’

Denver Republican Don Friedman didn’t think anyone was looking when he raided the buffet at a political function in the late 1970s.
File photo by Jody Hope Strogoff/The Colorado Statesman

“Second voice: ‘Why? Doesn’t he have a ride?’”

“What a memory!” Hayes penned in the guest book accompanying his obituary notice in the Denver Post.

The political ads were also referenced by his son, Glen, during services for Don at Fairmount Mortuary on Aug. 13.

An array of family and friends were in attendance, Democrats and Republicans alike, as Glen related both humorous and serious anecdotes about his Dad in a loving tribute.

Well known lobbyist Steve Durham, who began his own career as a legislator in 1975 as Don was finishing up his last term in the House, remembers his friend not only for his quick wit and sense of humor, but also because he was very principled. “He would stand up and take the heat,” Durham recalled this week. “He was not detoured. Don will be remembered for his intellect, sense of humor and accomplishments. He left a legacy.”

Don was frank and outspoken with an oversized sense of humor and an ability to parlay ordinary political discourse into witty repartee. I think I may have initially misinterpreted his easy-going and comedic manner when I first met him in 1978 — I didn’t quite get his political references or puns and never knew for sure whether he was serious or teasing. He took me out to lunch shortly afterwards at a now-defunct restaurant on South Federal where he introduced me to Vietnamese food and his views of the world. Throughout our relationship he always referred to himself as my “Jewish grandmother” and my officemates at the newspaper could never understand who the crazy person on the other end of the phone was for so many years.

As a legislator with a reputation for fiscal conservatism, Friedman served as Chair of the Joint Budget Committee. He was a moderate on social issues, sponsoring the first clean air legislation in the nation, and was a constant advocate for a woman’s right to choose. Durham recalls that he may have even worked with former state Rep. Dick Lamm on the historic piece of legislation granting women the right to choose in Colorado, which was, at the time, a concept not wholly embraced by his Republican peers.

Don received his B.A. from Wesleyan College and his Masters in Labor Relations from the University of California, Berkeley.

He served on the Denver Water Board and consulted for the EPA and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. Friedman was also an active community leader: a founding member and past president of Temple Micah, a former board president of B’nai B’rith, and board member of the Anti-Defamation League, The Bridge Project, and the Hemophilia Foundation.

He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Jeanne Bahne Friedman, daughter Rabbi Dayle Friedman, sons Glen Friedman and Steven Duris, and seven grandchildren.

Contributions may be made to The Bridge Project, Denver Hospice or the charity of donor’s choice.