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Wayne N. Aspinall Papers

Identifier: M008


Wayne N. Aspinall (1896-1983) of Palisade, Colorado served as member of the U.S. Congress, House of Representatives from 1949-1972, where he specialized in legislation on natural resources. He authored the Colorado River Basin Project Act of 1968 and played a key role in the 1964 Wilderness Act. His collection at the University of Denver includes congressional office records and files reflecting Aspinall's interests in water, public lands and conservation, service on and chairmanship of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs; the Public Land Review Commission; and service on the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy; correspondence, maps, newspaper clippings, campaign scripts and photographs.


  • 1925-1976
  • Majority of material found in 1955-1972


Biographical / Historical

Wayne N. Aspinall was born in Middleburg, Ohio on April 3, 1896. He was the oldest child of Mack Aspinall and Jessie Edna Norviel Aspinall. The family moved to Colorado in 1904 in order to improve the health of Aspinall’s mother. They located in Palisade, Colorado, where his father became a fruit grower. Aspinall was educated at Mt. Lincoln Public School in Palisade. His college education at the University of Denver (DU) was interrupted by World War I, in which he served in the air service of the Signal Corps as a corporal and staff sergeant. After the armistice, he returned to the University of Denver and received a Bachelors of Arts degree in 1919. After college he returned to Palisade where he taught, served on the school board and helped operate the family orchard for several years before returning to DU and earning a law degree in 1925.

Aspinall passed the Colorado Bar in 1925, returned to the Western Slope, and opened a law practice. In addition to his law practice and a continued interest in the family orchard, Aspinall was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Town of Palisade from 1926-1934. He was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives in 1931 and served as Democratic Party Whip in 1931 and 1933 and as Speaker in 1937 and 1938. He advanced to the Colorado Senate in 1939, serving as Democratic Whip in 1939, Majority Floor Leader in 1941 and Minority Floor Leader in 1943, 1945 and 1947.

During World War II, Aspinall served as a captain in the Military Government as a legal expert, and participated in the Normandy drive as an American officer assigned to the English Second Army. In 1948 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served until 1972. His tenure in the House was devoted to representing his district especially in areas of natural resources and water issues. He was Chairman of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, and ex officio member of Subcommittees on Territorial and Insular Affairs, Irrigation and Reclamation, Public Lands, Indian Affairs, Mines and Mining, and National Parks. He was a member of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Raw Materials. He was also a member of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and Chairman of the Public Land Law Review Committee. He wrote or sponsored crucial legislation on the development of water resources in Colorado and the West.

Aspinall lost his bid for reelection in 1972, a defeat he believed was due to the redistricting accomplished by the Republican dominated Colorado Legislature. He returned to Palisade and joined his son, Owen, in the law firm of Aspinall and Aspinall. He also served as a consultant to several companies involved in natural resources.

Aspinall married Julia Edith Kuns of Lincoln, Nebraska, on January 27, 1920. They had four children, Wayne Norviel II, Owen Stewart, Richard Daniel, and Ruth JoAnne Flora. Julia Aspinall died in 1969. In 1970, Aspinall married Essie Jeffers Best of Grand Junction, whom he had known since 1910 and dated in high school. She died on August 5, 1983, just months before Aspinall’s own death on October 9, 1983 at the age of 87. He was survived by three of his four children, Owen Stewart, Richard Daniel and Ruth JoAnne Flora.

Aspinall was a member of Beta Theta Pi, legal fraternity Phi Delta Phi, and honorary biology fraternity of Phi Sigma. He was a member of Blue Lodge Masonic Fraternity, Scottish Rite 33°, Knights Templar, A.A.O.N.M.S., International Order of Odd Fellows, American Legion, Forty and Eight, Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Elks, Lions International, Order of the Moose, and the Mesa and Colorado Bar Associations. He received honorary degrees from the University of Alaska in 1962, the University of Denver in 1963, Colorado State University in 1963, and the Colorado School of Mines in 1965. He was recipient of many honors, including the 1965 ''Outstanding Citizen of the Year'' from Palisade Chamber of Commerce, and Club 20’s ''Man of the Year'' in 1979 for his work on water and energy projects. He was named the man who had done most to support the mining industry in the United States by the American Institute of Mining, Petroleum and Metallurgical Engineers in 1977.


183 Linear Feet (521 legal document boxes)

Scope and Contents

The Aspinall papers cover Wayne Aspinall's career as a lawyer, Colorado State Legislator and U.S. Representative in Congress. The strength of the collection is in Congressional office records and files reflecting Aspinall's interests in water, public lands and conservation, service on and chairmanship of House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs; Public Land Review Commission; and service on the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. There is considerable information, in the form of correspondence and reports, on all the water projects and other legislation in which Aspinall was involved. The papers also include correspondence, maps, newspaper clippings, campaign scripts and photographs.


This collections is arranged in twenty-four series:; 1. Personal and Business, 1925-1948.; 2. State Legislature, 1931-1948.; 3. Water and Conservation, 1933-1948.; 4.Politics, 1930-1948.; 5 Personal and Business,1949-1959.; 6. Congressional Papers, 1955-1959.; 7. Congressional Papers, 1960.; 8. Congressional Papers, 1961.; 9. Congressional Papers, 1962; 10. Congressional Papers, 1963.; 11. Congressional Papers, 1964.; 12. Congressional Papers, 1965.; 13. Congressional Papers, 1966.; 14. Congressional Papers, 1967.; 15. Congressional Papers, 1968.; 16. Congressional Papers, 1969.; 17. Congressional Papers, 1970.; 18. Congressional Papers, 1971.; 19. Congressional Papers, 1972.; 20. Appointments, 1960-1972.; 21. Sponsored Legislation, 1949-1972.; 22. Case Work, 1957-1972.; 23. Post-Congressional Years.; 24. Photographs, Publications, Radio, T.V.;

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Wayne N. Aspinall, 1972, 1973, and 1979.


No further accruals are expected.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

2150 East Evans Avenue
Denver CO 80208
(303) 871-3428