Judge Gary Jackson, of Denver County Court, received the Monte Pascoe Civil Leadership Award in August during the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce State of the City luncheon.
The award honors the legacy of Monte Pascoe, who worked as a lawyer in Colorado until his death at the age of 71 in 2006. Gov. John Hickenlooper, then Denver’s mayor, established the award that year to honor Denver residents who are also civic leaders within the community.
Hancock said the award is given annually to leaders within Denver who “work tirelessly” to improve the community, fight for justice and work as a mentor for others.
After graduating high school in Denver, Jackson received a degree in political science from the University of Colorado in Boulder. He continued his schooling there at Colorado Law, graduating in 1970.
Jackson began his career in the Denver district attorney’s office. In 1971, he helped to found the Sam Cary Bar Association, offering resources to African-American attorneys. He served as the association president and co-founded its endowment fund, which provides scholarships.
“It was this association in 1971 that started me on what I call my leadership journey,” Jackson said.
Jackson then transitioned to the U.S. District Attorney’s office in Denver working the civil division in 1974. He started his own firm in 1976. He practiced law for more than 40 years before being appointed as a judge to the Denver County Court in 2013 by Hancock. He was the mayor’s first appointment to the bench.
Pascoe graduated from East High School in the City Park neighborhood and attended Dartmouth College. He earned his law degree from Stanford University. Upon his return to Denver, he worked for the Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe law firm until his death. He was an education advocate and served as a board member for several entities including the Colorado School of Mines, the Colorado Open Lands Foundation, Colorado Water Conservation Board and more.
Pascoe backed a case that went to the U.S. Supreme Court, calling for an end to policies that enabled segregation in Denver schools. The court ruled in favor of the families in 1973, allowing for desegregation.
Jackson touched on this own history as a black student at George Washington High School. The school is in the Washington Virginia Vale neighborhood in southeast Denver. He said the efforts of Pascoe and education advocates such as Rachel Noel, the first black woman elected to the Denver Board of Education in 1965, were key in moving the city forward.
“In 1963, in my class of 600 at George Washington, there were only two black students, one Latino and a few Asian-American students,” he said. “Now at George Washington, it is 30 percent white, 30 percent black and 30 percent Latino.”
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