Skip to main content


Identifier: WH1174

Scope and Contents

The O. Otto Moore Papers span the years 1922 to 2000. The collection includes biographical information, diplomas, certificates, newspaper clippings, photographs and magazine articles about Moore. A few items from Moore's time with the Colorado Supreme Court and the Denver District Attorney's office are contained in the collection. The bulk of the collection consists of transcripts of speeches made by Moore during his career as a lawyer and judge. The speeches are arranged chronologically. A scrapbook of newspaper articles about the murder trial of William Wymer is included. Audiovisual items include a videotape of Moore talking about the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado and a session at a Rocky Mountain Radio Television News Directors Association seminar.
SERIES 1 PERSONAL 1922-1985 BOX 1 Items included in this series are biographical information, school diplomas, Moore's license to practice law, and newspaper clippings. Also included are plaques, awards and certificates received by Moore for his service to the community.
SERIES 2 COLORADO SUPREME COURT JUSTICE 1958, 1968-1969 BOX 1 The certificate of election certifying that Moore had won the election for Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court forms part of this series. The remainder of the series deals with Moore's retirement from the Supreme Court and includes correspondence and a signed guest book from a testimonial dinner.
SERIES 3 ASSISTANT DENVER DISTRICT ATTORNEY 1973-1985 BOX 1 The series consists of correspondence, committee reports and staff training material. A few items pertain to Dale Tooley including correspondence, a speech transcript and a campaign flyer written by Otto endorsing Tooley for Denver Mayor.
SERIES 4 SPEECHES AND WRITINGS 1938-1982, n.d. BOX 1 Moore’s love of public speaking is reflected in this series. He rarely turned down an opportunity to speak. Transcripts from the many speeches he made during his career form the bulk of this series. The transcripts are arranged chronically. Also included are two articles and several poems written by Moore.
SERIES 5 AUDIOVISUAL 1956, 1959, 1969, 1979 AV ENVELOPE 1 This series includes a videotape of Moore discussing Canon 35 of the American Bar Association Code of Ethics which banned cameras and electronic equipment in Colorado courtrooms. It also contains a short piece on the death penalty and an in-depth interview on the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado. Also included is a reel-to-reel tape of a speech Moore gave at meeting of the Rocky Mountain Radio Television News Directors Association in 1969.
SERIES 6 OVERSIZE 1938-1988 OVBOX 1 This series contains a copy of Official Detective magazine and a scrapbook of newspaper clippings pertaining to the William Eugene Wymer murder case. Also included is a magazine issue containing an article by Moore, plaques, certificates, awards, an executive order and a pencil drawing of Moore.
SERIES 7 PHOTOGRAPHS 1922-1983 PHOTO FOLIO 1 The series portrays Moore's judicial career beginning with his graduation from the University of Denver School of Law through his tenure as assistant Denver district attorney. The bulk of the photographs depict Moore as Colorado Supreme Court Justice and Chief Justice. Included are both color and black and white photographic prints.


  • 1922-1988

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.


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.

Biographical / Historical

Ostis Otto Moore was born May 14, 1896 in an Indiana farmhouse near the town of Floyds Knobs. He was named after his father’s two best friends, Ostis and Otto. Moore was not fond of the name Ostis and most of his friends and colleagues knew him only as Otto.

In 1901, his mother developed tuberculosis so the family moved to Denver, Colorado hoping that her health would improve. The first summer, the family lived in a tent pitched in an irrigation ditch near West 39th Avenue and Tennyson in northwest Denver. Moore’s mother died in 1906. Moore, his brother and sister were sent to live with relatives in Indiana. They returned to their father in Denver in 1907. When his father remarried in 1908, Moore chose to be on his own and moved into the house of Hettie Bradshaw, his mother’s best friend. He juggled 3 paper routes to get by and often fell asleep from exhaustion during classes at South High School.

Moore graduated from South High School and received a football scholarship to the University of Denver in 1916. He joined the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and served as president of both his freshman and sophomore classes.

When World War I broke out, Moore tried enlisting in both the Marines and Army Flying Service, but was unsuccessful due to a football knee injury. However, his number came up in the draft and he was inducted into the Army. Before he was shipped out he met Ruth Dye from Julesburg, Colorado. They corresponded during the two years and three months he spent in France. In 1919, they were married. Moore returned to University of Denver where he received his law degree in 1923.

Moore joined the Denver District Attorney’s Office as a deputy in 1924. He was in charge of prosecuting bootleggers. He also tangled with the Ku Klux Klan when it had a strong hold in Colorado politics and public offices. Moore prosecuted Klan sympathizers who broke the law. He resigned from the District Attorney’s office “in a huff” in 1927 after a heated disagreement with the District Attorney over what Moore considered to be a matter of principle in a case.

Moore opened his own law practice just about the time the Depression hit. He often accepted fruits and vegetables, old cars, and once a herd of cows as payment of fees. While still practicing law he began a campaign to obtain pensions for Colorado’s elderly citizens. He formed the National Annuity League and published a weekly paper called the Bulletin Free Press that contained information and news for pensioners. He traveled the state making speeches and lobbying for a constitutional amendment. He worked with the Congressional Ways and Means Committee in Washington, D.C. on constructing legislation, which later became the Social Security Act. Finally, in 1936, his Colorado constitutional amendment was passed. In 1947, Moore authored a book about the pension movement called Mile High Harbor.

In 1939 Moore returned to the Denver District Attorney’s office. He ran for the office of Denver District Attorney in 1940, but was narrowly defeated and returned to private practice. Several of his murder defenses received national publicity such as the William Eugene Wymer case.

In 1948, the Democratic Party convinced Moore to run for the Colorado Supreme Court. He won the election and was re-elected in 1958. During his twenty years on the bench, Moore sat with twenty-two other Justices, authored 1,038 opinions and was involved in more than 5,000 decisions. Moore once said, “I particularly remember my dissents. I really relished them; they had more conviction. I may be wrong, but I’m never in doubt.” He served three terms as Chief Justice (1957, 1967 and 1968). In 1969, Moore retired from the Colorado Supreme Court, that same year he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Denver.

In 1970, Moore was asked to write a new Code of Criminal Procedure and update the Colorado Criminal Code. When Dale Tooley was elected Denver District Attorney in 1973, he persuaded Moore to come out of retirement and serve as an assistant Denver District Attorney. He served more than 10 years. Moore’s workload included bringing cases for the District Attorney’s office before the Colorado Supreme Court. When Dale Tooley resigned as District Attorney to run for Denver mayor, Moore continued in the office under Norm Early. Moore retired in May 1985 at the age of 89.

Moore was a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars, Freemasons, Phi Delta Phi, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He served two terms as president of the University of Denver Alumni Association. He was active in many civic and fraternal organizations. He was an honorary 33 degree Scottish Rite Mason and a member of the El Jebel Shrine in Denver.

Governor Richard Lamm, in his 1976 proclamation of Judge O. Otto Moore Recognition Day, stated that Moore "achieved and continues to achieve great accomplishments with a recognition of justice, warm sense of humor and a dedication to mankind (except on the tennis court where even today he displays little mercy for his opponents)."

Moore died on December 10, 1990 at the age of 94. He was survived by his one daughter, Loahna Moore Chandler. His wife, Ruth, of 67 years preceded him in death.


1 box

1 AVEnvelope

1 Photo Folio

1 oversize box

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Loahna Moore Chandler, 1993. Gift, Maurice Young, 1994.


Mile High Harbor by Ostis Otto Moore C331.252 M785mi

Ku Klux Klan Interviews: O. Otto Moore (oral histories) C MSS OH1-6

Judge O. Otto Moore on the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado (videotape) C322.420978 M785ju


Merrie Jo Schroeder

July 2005


Dennis Hagen

August 2009


Ellen Zazzarino
Revised August 2009
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

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

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