Colorado's Volcanic Boy Wonder
Location: West side of the Westin Hotel, north of 104th Avenue and east of Westminster Boulevard.
Artist: Winsor Fireform Fabrication - Tumwater, Wash.
Year Installed: 2011.
How Acquired: Funded by the City of Westminster.
Comments: The history panel is located at the base of one of sixteen custom-designed light towers.
Colorado's Volcanic Boy Wonder
Northwest of the intersection of Federal Boulevard and 120th Avenue is the Metzger Farm, a scenic collection of gleaming white and green buildings surrounded by open crop fields, groves of trees and two irrigation ponds. From 1943 through 1984, this was the home of lawyer, farmer, rancher, entrepreneur and state attorney general John Metzger.
John Metzger was born in Colorado around 1911 and was orphaned at a young age. After a difficult childhood, he emancipated himself at the age of 14 and settled in Denver. He talked himself into a law clerk position, attended night classes at the Westminster School of Law, and became an attorney with a general practice that focused upon the legal needs of common people.
In 1928, Metzger attended the Democratic Party’s national convention, after which he dove into state and local politics, building a reputation as a fighter for the underdog. During the 1930s and 1940s, he continued to practice law but also rose through the ranks of state party politics.
In 1943, John purchased the farm in the countryside north of Denver. He constructed buildings, planted crops, and began breeding Scotch Shorthorn cattle. In 1944 he married Batty Amen, a Denver University music graduate who hailed from a farm near Fort Morgan.
In the late 1940s, Colorado was emerging from years of Depression and war. To many, the old ways of running government were viewed as no longer appropriate to the postwar world. John Metzger ran for office in 1948 and was elected State Attorney General with a promise to shake up business as usual. Over the following two years he captured headlines almost daily as he clamped down upon corrupt and illegal government practices and took on organized crime.
Metzger pursued his role as attorney general with dedication, overseeing a staff of mostly war veterans that settled more than 1300 cases during his two years in office. Demanding compliance with the law to a degree bordering upon zealousness, he rooted out long-standing graft, corruption, criminal activity and sloth as he worked to extract Colorado from the old closed-society ways of running government and doing business. His goal was to move the state toward a new era of efficiency, legality and openness.
Metzger banned religious instruction in the state’s public schools, declaring the practice to be in violation of the state constitution. He battled with the highway department, law enforcement agencies, district attorneys, the powerful prison warden, and other fiefdoms and inefficient offices within state government. Metzger was instrumental in paving the legal ground for construction of the Boulder Turnpike and secured critical water rights for the growing town of Broomfield. In 1951, he ran an unsuccessful campaign to unseat Governor Dan Thornton.
Following his death in 1984, the Denver Post remembered Metzger as “the volcanic boy wonder of Colorado politics… who displayed a unique, bipartisan flare for public insult and criticism that disturbed more staid politicians. He was especially fond of criticizing district attorneys and what he called the breakdown in local law enforcement in Colorado.” John Metzger was born a politician and fighter for the common people, who favored meritocracy and loved crusades.