June 29, 2012
This month the Colorado Law community takes a moment to honor the life and accomplishments of another one of our most distinguished alums, Penfield “Pen” Wallace Tate II. Born and raised in New Philadelphia, Ohio, Tate was the second eldest of ten children. He attended Kent State University on an academic scholarship and played tackle on the varsity football team earning honors as the school’s first All-American football player. In 1952 he graduated with a degree in pre-law and political science, and a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
Following his graduation from Kent State, Tate served as an artillery officer for 14 years, holding both staff and command positions. He began his legal studies while he was still in the Army, and attended a number of law schools around the country as his assignment locations changed. He ended up at the University of Colorado Law School, where he received his law degree in 1968. Following law school, Tate worked for Mountain Bell as a labor relations specialist, and soon joined the administration at Colorado State University as Human Relations Director. At CSU, Tate served as an affirmative action and equal employment problem-solving resource, and reported directly to the president of the university at the time, Ray Chamberlain.
Then in 1972, Tate established the firm of Tate, Olin & Tate, a general practice firm, and remained there as a partner until 1977, when he found the firm of Trimble and Tate, which became Trimble, Tate and Nulan, and finally Tate & Tate, with his son, Penfield III. In his career as a private practitioner, Tate focused on labor and employment law, and in particular civil rights discrimination claims in the federal courts. In addition, Tate spent a good deal of time representing and advising businesses on personnel employment issues, government law issues, family law, and litigation matters. He was a member of the National Bar Association, the Sam Cary Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, and the Legal Relations Section of the American Bar Association.
Beyond his law practice, Tate was political activist, and in 1971 became the first African-American elected to the Boulder City Council. Tate served on the council from 1972 to 1976, and in 1974 his fellow Council members elected him Mayor of Boulder, a position he held for the duration of his term on the Council. During that time, Pen was a leading advocate on behalf of the LGBT community culminating in his support for a human right ordinance for Boulder. The ordinance was controversial for its time and led to Pen’s failure to win reelection. Civic involvement was always a priority for Tate, and he was a member of both the City Housing Authority and the Human Relations Committee in Boulder for a number of years. Tate also served on the Board of Directors of the Colorado Housing and Finance authority for 15 years, including several years as Chairman of the Board, and on the Board of Directors for the Denver Metropolitan Major League Baseball Stadium District from 1991 until his passing in 1993. The District honored Tate by placing a plaque in his memory on the concourse behind center field at Coors Field.
Colorado Law honored Tate at the Law Alumni Awards Banquet in 1991 with the Small Practitioner Award, and again in 1993 with the Centennial Award.