JOHN BERMINGHAM PAPERS
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
The collection spans 1956-1974 and details John Bermingham’s career as a Colorado State Senator from 1965 to 1973. The bulk of the collection relates to Bermingham’s legislative work concerning abortion, birth control, and the environment, as well as his interest and involvement in policy pertaining to state, national, and global population issues. In addition, the collection includes materials from Bermingham’s election and re-election campaigns to the Colorado State Legislature.
The collection contains newspaper clippings, correspondence, memos, campaign materials (flyers, brochures, pamphlets, bumper stickers, handbills, and postcards), notes, legislation drafts and summaries, programs, certificates, reports, newsletters, scripts, photographs, and a scrapbook.
This series chronicles John Bermingham’s involvement in Colorado politics, including his election and re-election campaigns to the Colorado House of Representatives (1956) and Colorado Senate (1960, 1964, 1968, 1972); his career as a Republican State Senator and work to reform abortion, birth control, and environmental laws; and his involvement with population growth policy groups including with the Colorado Institute on Population Problems (CIPP), Colorado Environmental Commission’s Committee on Population and Related Problems, and the Colorado’s Legislative Interim Committee on Balanced Population Growth. Materials have been arranged by date and include newspaper clippings, correspondence, memos, campaign materials (flyers, brochures, pamphlets, bumper stickers, handbills, and postcards), notes, legislation drafts and summaries, programs, certificates, reports, newsletters, scripts, and photographs.
The series is comprised of one scrapbook documenting Bermingham’s career in the Colorado State Senate. Materials contained within the scrapbook include clippings, correspondence, photographs, and flyers.
The collection is open for research.
Records are the physical property of the Denver Public Library
All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.
John Rutledge Bermingham was born November 7, 1923, in Cook County, Illinois, to Katherine Carpenter Bermingham (1895-1987) and Edward John Bermingham (1887-1958), an investment banker and friend of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Raised in Lake Forest, Illinois, John attended college preparatory school at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, and graduated in 1941.
In 1944, Bermingham graduated from Yale University with a degree in Electrical Engineering. After graduation, he was an ensign in the Navy’s Pacific Theater until 1946. Bermingham then attended Columbia University School of Law, graduating in 1949. In 1951, he co-founded the National Youth for Eisenhower movement. From 1952 to 1953, he was a special assistant to Nathaniel Goldstein, Attorney General of New York.
Bermingham moved to Denver in 1953. On December 11, 1954, he married Marcia Dines. They had three children: John, Jr., Katherine, and Andrew. The couple divorced in 1967. Bermingham was an attorney for Continental Oil from 1953 until 1961, when he started a private law practice.
Bermingham ran as a Republican candidate for the Colorado House of Representatives in 1956 and the Colorado State Senate in 1960. He was elected to the Colorado State Senate in 1964 and re-elected in 1968 and 1972. He served Denver’s Country Club neighborhood, Senate District 7 (1965-1972), and Senate District 5 (1973). Bermingham was a chairman for the State Senate Committee on Health and Welfare (1965-1966, 1968), Transportation (1967), and the State Senate Judiciary Committee (1969-1973).
During his senatorial career, Bermingham worked for legislative reforms to abortion and birth control. In 1965, he introduced Senate Bill 232, which authorized all Colorado counties to distribute birth control information, services, and devices to welfare clients as well as married persons or parents. The bill was signed by Governor John Love on April 23, 1965.
In 1967, Bermingham and State Representative Richard Lamm became chief sponsors for a bill (Colorado House Bill 1426) to expand Colorado's abortion law, which at the time limited legal abortions to pregnancies where a mother’s life or physical health was in danger. Bermingham and Lamm’s bill called for legal abortions to include pregnancies that posed a mental or physical risk to the child as well as those pregnancies that were the result of incest or rape. The bill also mandated that abortions be performed in accredited hospitals only. With the bill’s passage, Colorado became the first U.S. state to liberalize its abortion laws.
In 1971, Bermingham drafted and guided the Family Planning Act (Colorado Senate Bill 230) through the legislature. Signed into law in April 1971, the Family Planning Act gave the Colorado Health Department the authority to receive and disburse family planning funds to public and private organizations. It also mandated that contraceptive procedures, supplies, and information be made available by hospitals, clinics, medical centers, and pharmacies without prerequisite or discrimination.
While in the Colorado Senate, Bermingham shaped Colorado’s 1966 Air Pollution Control Act, which repealed prior state air pollution legislation and called for the active prevention, abatement, and control of air pollution. In recognition of his work, Bermingham received an invitation from President Lyndon B. Johnson to attend the signing of the Air Quality Act in 1967. Bermingham was the chief State Senate sponsor for the Air Pollution Control Act of 1970, which created a state air pollution control commission.
In addition to abortion, birth control, and air pollution legislation, Bermingham sponsored legislation to preserve open space and to place controls on water pollution, radiation hazards, and solid waste disposal. He was also responsible for the development and passage of reforms to Colorado’s criminal and probate codes.
Bermingham’s work with population growth issues began in 1969, when he became a director of the Colorado Institute on Population Problems (CIPP), a nonprofit organization formed to publicize the consequences of overpopulation. In 1970, he became a founder of the Denver chapter of Zero Population Growth (ZPG). In May 1970, Bermingham and Representative Lamm issued a formal plea to state legislators asking for support of the Joint Statement on Population Problems. In 1971, Bermingham served on the Colorado Environmental Commission’s Committee on Population and Related Problems. From 1971 to 1972, Bermingham was a member and chairman of the Legislative Interim Committee on Balanced Population Growth. In 1972, Bermingham and Lamm collaborated again to sponsor the Colorado Population Advisory Council Bill (Colorado House Bill 1076) with the goal of establishing a population policy and a population advisory council. The bill passed, and on August 15, 1972, Governor Love appointed seven people to the state’s first Population Advisory Council.
On July 20, 1973, Bermingham resigned from his senatorial seat to become Assistant for Environmental Affairs to Colorado Governor John Vanderhoof.
In 1975, Bermingham became Chair of the Colorado Land Use Commission. In 1976, he was appointed Regional Secretarial Representative for U.S. Secretary of Commerce Elliot Richardson. Bermingham resigned after eight months and publicly voiced concerns about the necessity of the office due to a lack of activity in the region. Bermingham then returned to his private legal practice, Bermingham, White, Burke, & Ipsen, which specialized in natural resource law. In 1978, Bermingham's firm merged with Yegge, Hall, & Evans and took on its name.
Bermingham remained active in causes related to population growth and the environment. He served as an early board member of the Rocky Mountain Center of the Environment and as president of the Colorado Open Space Council in 1978, and was a member of the Denver Water Board’s Citizens Advisory Committee during periods of the late 1970s and 1980s. In 1981, Governor Richard Lamm appointed Bermingham to the Colorado Air Control Commission. A Colorado Senate committee, however, rejected the appointment.
After retiring from his private legal practice, Bermingham became the founder and president of the Colorado Population Coalition and taught courses at the University of Denver and Metropolitan State University of Denver.
1 Boxes (1 linear foot)
Other Finding Aids
John R. Bermingham donated the collection on April 30, 2007.
Number of Boxes: 1 (1 linear foot)
Oversize: 1 OVFolio
PROCESSED AND ENCODED BY:
- Abortion -- Law and legislation -- Colorado -- 20th century. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Air -- Pollution -- Law and legislation -- Colorado -- 20th century. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Birth control -- Law and legislation -- Colorado -- 20th century. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Colorado -- Population -- Environmental aspects -- 20th century. Subject Source: Lcnaf
- Colorado -- Population policy -- 20th century. Subject Source: Lcnaf
- Office files. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Photographs. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Scrapbooks. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- JOHN BERMINGHAM PAPERS
- October 2014
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