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Identifier: WH1015


The papers in this collection range from 1947 to 1983 with the bulk dating from 1963 to 1983. Mayoral papers comprise the bulk of the collection. McNichols was Manager of Public Works and Deputy Mayor during Mayor Thomas Currigan's administration, 1963 to 1969. The collection contains many papers from this time period, mostly documenting McNichols' public duties as Manager of Public Works and as Deputy Mayor. He also kept papers from the Currigan administration on the crises and problems that continued into his administration such as documents from the Police Department. The McNichols mayoral administration ranged from 1969 to 1983. The papers are nearly complete for this time period. Most of the time gaps and missing papers are from his last term. Papers exist for this time period, but many detailed memos and much correspondence are missing.

The papers are arranged along a filing plan similar to the plan used by Mayor Thomas Currigan. Each document was assigned a number consistent with its position in the plan. Generally, the papers are arranged by type, by department and division and by agency. Each sub-series contains papers listed chronologically, then alphabetically.

The collection is replete with cross-references. For example, John Wilder, Mayor's Administrative Assistant attended Denver Regional Council of Government meetings along with Harold Cook, Manager of Public Works who was the official representative. Wilder's Denver Regional Council of Government papers have cross-references to other departments and to Cook's papers.


Correspondence between organizations, state, federal and international officials, other cities and states and with the public comprises the bulk of this series. The correspondence consists of original letters received and copies of letters sent.

Correspondence with organizations such as the National League of Cities and the Colorado Municipal League supplies background information about federal legislation and instructions of how to apply for funding. Correspondence with various national task forces such as one relating to air pollution is included. The programs and meeting minutes are included as well as articles and other organizational publications that quoted McNichols.

Other cities exchanged greetings and information with McNichols. The sub-series contains news of visiting officials, information about citywide programs similar to those in Denver and requests for information about shared problems.

Variously called the sister-city, twinning or people-to-people program, the international correspondence in this series reflects efforts on the part of Denver to form relationships with cities in other countries such as France or Japan. Some of the letters describe travel and visits on the part of McNichols to these countries or foreign dignitaries visiting Denver.

The greater part of the correspondence involves the public. McNichols' constituents viewed him as approachable often addressing him as "Mayor Bill." They wrote to him about national issues, problems with traffic, barking dogs, uncooperative neighbors, the conditions of the streets and alleys, or for help finding employment. McNichols' replies were cordial even when he received attacks. He defended his administration, often requiring other city officials to write the actual letters that he signed upon approval. He gave the impression that he cared about the writer's problems. A portion of the correspondence consisted of crank and anonymous letters. Handwritten notes upon these letters indicate that McNichols read and considered even the most bizarre correspondence. Although constituent correspondence is scattered throughout the collection, this series contains copies of letters that McNichols sent. The volume of correspondence is large. To display the breadth of the correspondence, a portion of 1973 and all of the 1977 and 1978 letters are arranged by topic. The rest of the correspondence is arranged chronologically by month and year.

Correspondence with local organizations comprises a significant sub-series. Often asked to speak at or at least to attend events, McNichols received letters, programs and flyers from a myriad of organizations. This correspondence is arranged alphabetically by the name of the organization.


This series contains the papers of agencies established by the charter whose members are appointed and report to him. These agencies include the Mayor's Charity Fund, Budget and Management, the Planning Office, the City Attorney, the Clerk and Recorder, County Court, the Commission on Community Relations and the Building Inspection Department. Each agency reported to the mayor with memos and reports. The mayor's office kept significant correspondence from the agencies in order to answer questions from media and the public. The papers of other agencies were included in this series since many committees and commissions were established to meet specific issues that arose during the fourteen years of McNichols' administration. This series alos contains papers specific to the mayor, such as his appointment books, schedules, press releases and schedules.

Annexation, neighborhood development and community relations were major topics of concern represented in the papers of this series.


The Department of Public Works was charged with maintaining and constructing public works such as the airport, mass transportation, sanitary services, sewers and the streets. The papers in this series consist of memos, correspondence and reports. The mayor's office received constant correspondence from the public about the activities of this department. The series contains reports about issues such as the takeover of the Tramway Company and the development of Metropolitan Denver Sewage Disposal District No. 1.

McNichols' service as Manager of Public Works under Mayor Thomas Currigan from 1963 to 1968 is documented in the series. During his own mayoral term, McNichols kept most papers from this department because of his familiarity with the topics and because of the importance of the manager. The manager served as the Deputy Mayor during McNichols' absences and his prospective successor.

The demise of the Denver Tramway bus system, the struggle of the McNichols administration to pass bond issues and the subsequent purchase of the system are reflected in the papers. Also documented are Denver Metro Transit (a transition company) and the development of the State-controlled Regional Transportation District. Water problems of the early 1970s led to the development of the Foothills Water Treatment Facility. The papers also demonstrate the difficulty of creating a metropolitan-wide agency and locating its buildings partly on the environmentally sensitive Eagles Nest Wilderness owned by the federal government. Complaints from the public about parking and noise from jets at Stapleton International Airport constitute a portion of the series as well as memos and correspondence relating to the push for passage of bond issues to fund various public works projects.


The Department of Parks and Recreation under Mayor McNichols was responsible for maintaining and developing Denver's city and regional parks. It also provided recreational programs for Denver citizens. Correspondence with the public and with the department comprises the bulk of the series. Reports on the status of the department, the mountain parks and the city parks are included. Mile High Stadium was a part of this department. Memos and correspondence about the stadium, its concessions, parking and expansions comprise a portion of the series.


The papers of the Department of Health and Hospitals demonstrate its responsibility for public health. Correspondence, memos and reports detail the activities of Denver General Hospital, the neighborhood health centers, the Public Health Division, the Air Pollution Division as well as the morgue and vital statistics. The financial aspects of this department were represented in memos and correspondence directed to the mayor's office and copies of reports sent to the mayor's office through the management of the department.


The two main divisions of the Department of Revenue, the Assessment Division and the Treasury Division, reported to the mayor's office in brief memos and reports. Responsible for setting property tax amounts, the Assessment Division caused controversy when citizens felt the amounts were unfair. The Treasury Division collected taxes. When taxes were increased, the volume of correspondence with the public increased. Other offices determined grants and bonds, but the financial aspects were managed by the Department of Revenue.

This series also contains the papers of the Motor Vehicle Division, responsible for licensing automobiles and collecting the fees associated with this task.


A Charter amendment in 1971 created the Department of Safety to replace the Department of Safety and Excise. The new department was charged with the protection of Denver citizens, and included the Police Department, the Sheriff Department (including city and county jails, and the Fire Department). Although the Department of Excises and Licenses was created at this time, its papers are included in this series because of ongoing and overlapping issues.

Papers relating to the Police Department range throughout the 1960s and 1970s. They include documentation of civil unrest, crime and public perceptions of abuse of police power. The attempts of the Police Department to improve community relations are documented in correspondence and reports. Correspondence with the public furnishes evidence of the continuing perception of problems with excessive police force and the perceived targeting of minorities.

Fire Department documents provide reports of activities within the city and with employee and manager problems.


This small series contains the papers of the department responsible for maintaining city properties. The papers reflect the plans for new buildings as well as speech transcripts, newspaper clippings and correspondence created for the ceremonies. Some of the documents consist of papers related to the facilities staff. McNichols, however, kept these papers only if a problem existed or a ceremony was imminent.


The papers in this series demonstrate McNichols' special interests in the elderly, children, and the handicapped. Correspondence reflects his involvement in city programs to aid the less fortunate people. He sought grants for special programs, tailored existing programs to better meet the needs of these constituents and made appointments to committees and commissions to investigate problems and recommend solutions.

The War on Poverty program during the 1960s created several agencies to provide services. McNichols continued many of those programs under the title Denver Opportunity. Of special note is the uninterrupted Headstart Program, continued despite uncertain funding.


This series contains the papers of agencies in Denver that operated independently of the Mayor, but directly influenced city business. Elected officials ran the agencies with the power to make decisions and to disburse funds. For example, the Denver City Auditor, elected separately, was responsible for conducting financial audits of the city departments reporting to the Mayor. The Auditor determined whether to sign financial papers to allow payment, or not sign if there was indication of inappropriate or incomplete information. Memos exchanged between the Mayor's office and the Auditor's office are included in this series as well as audits and other financial documents.

City Council, the Civil Service Commission, the courts, the Election Commission, The Denver Public Library and the Career Service Authority comprise the rest of the agencies represented by the papers in this series. Arranged by the agency, then chronologically, the papers consist of memos, correspondence and reports created by the agencies and by the mayor's office.


The city related agencies that comprise this series consist of agencies for which the mayor made appointments and used to finance and control various projects in Denver. The documents portray the infusion of money into Denver through overlapping federal programs during the 1970s.

Urban Renewal Authority documents reveal planning and finally implementation of programs in the Skyline area and neighborhoods such as West Side, East Side, Avondale and elsewhere to eliminate "blight" and build modern city housing.

Papers show Denver's application to become a part of the Model City Program leading to planning during 1968 to 1969 and activity from 1970 to 1974. Correspondence and memos relate the development of projects to improve inner-city cultural life. Employment, health and recreational programs are documented from the Mayor's perspective in this series. The Urban Resources Development Agency (URDA) administered funds for the Model City Program.

Affirmative action (by 1977, part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development) papers were a part of the Public Works program until they expanded into every department. In the 1970s, a separate Affirmative Action Agency was formed. Departmental managers of the City and County of Denver displayed an initial lack of understanding of racial equality as measured by statistics and percentages in employment at all promotional levels. Memos and reports show the development of training and recruitment programs to address the problems.

Revenue Sharing began as Urban Renewal programs became a part of the Urban Resources Development Agency that coordinated federal programs to benefit low and moderate-income residents and the Model City Program ended. This program provided states and cities with funds based on population, reports in this series focused on population figures frequently providing minority, gender and income statistics.

The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development communicated with the Mayor's office through newsletters and correspondence frequently during the 1970s. Early 1970s papers detail the activities of Denver's Housing Administration, which communicated with Denver residents to help provide low income people with adequate housing through rent supplement programs and coordination with the Department of Social Services. By 1975, the documents in this series relate that this department was closing out to be replaced by Federal activities such as Section 8. Throughout the decade, the Denver Housing Authority met, as can be seen by meeting minutes and reports, overseeing housing activities in Denver.

The Federally Assisted Code Enforcement (FACE) program provided inspections for housing code violations. It was terminated in 1974.

The Federal Community Development Act of 1974, as documented in papers in this series, provided funds in the form of block grants. Correspondence and memos from the Mayor's office indicate efforts to obtain these grants, initially to continue Model City programs. After 1977, the Department of Housing and Urban Development managed these block grant programs. The papers show how the city became dependent upon block grants to fund essential services such as the police and fire departments.

While discussion of federal funds dominated the papers in this series, local bond issues provide a steady topic of memos and reports. The Denver Water Board recommended and supervised water projects such as the Foothills Water Treatment Complex.

In 1955, Mayor Quigg Newton formed the Inter-County Regional Planning Commission. Though meeting minutes demonstrate some activity on the part of this organization, it was relatively inactive until, in 1968, Mayor Thomas Currigan reformed it as the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG). McNichols helped invest this organization with expanded powers. The papers in this series include background documents and meeting minutes, which define the role of municipalities in the metropolitan governments in obtaining grants and producing reports that affected them all.

Independent of other organizations, the Denver Urban Observatory was established in 1969 to perform urban research. This series contains correspondence, memos and some of the reports that this agency produced that addressed problems of the city.

SERIES 12 EPHEMERA 1960-1980 BOX 119

This series consists mainly of items that McNichols kept in his desk drawer. The items include nametags, commemorative paperweights, a tie tack and several ashtrays.


This series consists of a 3/4" commercial videotape of a KRMA-TV6 program featuring Don Kinney discussing Colorado matters with a panel. The late 1982 program featured Grant Alley, President of Van Schaack and Company, discussing the Denver housing crisis caused by inflation and high interest rates. Alley recommended "starter" houses, explained "hybrid" financing and suggested strategies to cope with high interest rates and high housing prices.

The last half of the videotape focused on the upcoming 1983 mayoral election. Kinney discussed the McNichols administration with Gary Delsohn and Karl Miller of The Denver Post. They described the strong role of the mayor in Denver, McNichols' strengths with Republicans because of his "hands-off" approach to business, his problems with Elvin Caldwell's forced resignation due to allegations of bingo fraud and the problems with concession contracts.


Incidental photographs comprise this collection. Images of election publicity, models of proposed buildings, neighborhood problems such as junkyards and proposed Olympic facilities comprise the series.

SERIES 15 OVERSIZE 1927-1979 OV BOX 1-3, OVFOLIO 1-4, OVFF 1-2

Oversize materials such as maps, certificates and posters comprise this series. One oversize box contains awards presented in the form of large plaques. Also included is a metal signpost McNichols kept in his office.


  • 1927-1983


The collection is open for research.


Literary and copyrights - as appropriate - have been assigned to 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.


William H. McNichols, Jr. was born in Denver on April 11, 1910. His father was longtime (1931-1955) city auditor William H. McNichols, Sr. His mother was Cassie F. Warner McNichols, the daughter of an Aspen, Colorado attorney. McNichols was the second oldest of four children. He attended Denver elementary schools, East High School, the University of Colorado and the University of Alabama. During his school years, he worked for the Colorado Highway Department. Later, he worked for the Inspection Department of the Denver Water Board.

During World War II, McNichols served with the Douglas Aircraft Overseas Division in Africa. He also served nineteen months in Armored Infantry (4th Armored Division) in the European Theater of Operations earning three battle stars, the Purple Heart, a Distinguished Unit Citation and Combat Infantryman Badge. After the war, he worked in the insurance and automobile business, mostly on the West Coast.

Returning to Denver, McNichols served as executive secretary to his brother, Stephen I. R. McNichols, who was Governor of Colorado from 1956 to 1962. In 1963, Mayor Thomas Currigan appointed William McNichols, Jr. Manager of Public Works and Deputy Mayor of Denver. Mayor Currigan resigned as of December 31, 1968, and McNichols became Denver's 36th Mayor. His mayoral administration lasted from 1969 to 1983 when Federico Pena defeated him.

Several significant developments shaped the McNichols years. Federal money flowed into Denver beginning with Urban Renewal that eventually included the Model City Program. Local issues during the 1970s also occupied the McNichols administration. The Denver Tramway bus system failed. McNichols led a successful drive for bonds to purchase the system. In 1970, he formed Denver Metro Transit Company that bridged the years until the Regional Transportation District was formed in 1974 by the State of Colorado. Water and sewage disposal were at crisis points until the McNichols administration helped form the Foothills Water Treatment Facility. Packs of dogs ran uncontrolled throughout Denver until a licensing and leash law was passed and McNichols strengthened the animal control division of the Health and Hospitals Department. Beginning with Rachel Noel's ordinance passed by the Denver School Board in 1968 and continuing after the Keyes v. Denver School District Number One court decision in 1974, integration for the Denver Schools was mandated. Busing, although unpopular, achieved this goal. Crowded and noisy conditions at Stapleton International Airport persisted, causing constant complaints from citizens. Also, a persistent problem throughout the McNichols Administration was the perception of police abuse of power. (However, an almost equal number of letters from citizens praised police and the attainment of law and order in Denver.)

McNichols' major disappointment during his term as Mayor was Denver's bid for the 1976 Winter Olympics. In 1967 and 1968, Mayor Thomas Currigan and Governor John Love, along with the Denver Chamber of Commerce and other leading Denver businessmen lobbied the International Olympic Committee. They were successful. When McNichols assumed office, he and his staff immediately began to make preparations for the event. However, a petition campaign in 1972 resulted in an election that denied funding to the Olympics. Denver was forced to withdraw.

McNichols was defeated in his bid for a fourth term in 1983 by Federico Pena. Denver's inadequate efforts to deal with a disastrous snowstorm on Christmas Eve in 1982 angered voters. Some Denver citizens were troubled by questionable city concession contracts and rumors of mob connections. After his defeat, McNichols worked as Community Coordinator for Metrobank of Denver before retiring.

McNichols belonged to numerous local and national organizations, holding office in many of them. He was a member of the American Legion, the Civil Air Patrol and the American Public Works Association. He served on the Board of Trustees of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, on the Advisory Board of the National League of Cities and as co-chairman for the Mayor's Committee of the American Revolution Bicentennial.

Throughout his terms as Manager of Public Works and Mayor of Denver as well as during his retirement, McNichols lived in the same house at 734 Krameria Street and kept his phone number listed in the telephone directory. McNichols married Laverne Peterson on October 24, 1947. She died in 1982. They had one son, Stephen Charles. Though McNichols suffered a mild heart attack after assuming office as mayor, he recovered and lived until May 29, 1997 when he died of another apparent heart attack. He is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery.


119 Boxes (118.25 lf)

2 OV Boxes, 4 OVFolios, 2 OVFF

1 PhotoBox Photoboxes

1 AVEnvelope


William McNichols donated some of his papers in October 1985. A portion of the papers were obtained from the Colorado State Archives in January 2006. Other papers were donated by the City and County of Denver in October 2008. Funding for processing provided by an Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grant.


The Western History/Genealogy Department has additional collections with material related to Mayor William McNichols, including:

Related Materials

Bezoff, Ben, Oral History, February 6, 1979: OH44

Mayor's Committee of 19 for '76 (Denver, Colorado): WH901

Club 23: WH1013

Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Papers: WH1216

Thomas G. Currigan Papers: WH929

Denver Model City Program: WH1222


Number of Boxes: 119 (118.25 lf)

Oversize: 2 OV Boxes, 4 OVFolios, 2 OVFF

Number of Photoboxes: 1 PhotoBox

Audio-Visual: 1 AVEnvelope




Ann Brown

January 2009


Ellen Zazzarino

Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Denver Public Library, Western History and Genealogy Repository

10 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy
Denver CO 80204 United States