As a young man, Gary Jackson never thought he would one day become a lawyer. Born and raised in Denver, Jackson began his undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado thinking he would become an engineer. During his second year at CU Jackson met his roommate’s father, an African-American attorney from Arkansas who was playing an instrumental role in the integration efforts that were underway at the time. Jackson was inspired, and decided to change his career path and become a lawyer. After graduating with a BA in political science from CU, Jackson earned his JD from Colorado Law in 1970.
During his third year at Colorado Law, Jackson interned in the appellate division of the Denver district attorney’s office, and was hired full-time after he finished law school. During his first year with the district attorney’s office, Jackson spent his time in the county court handling misdemeanors. He was appointed chief trial deputy over the juvenile court in his second year, and thereafter spent two years as the trial deputy in the felony division. Then in 1974, after four years with the district attorney’s office, Jackson was hired by the U.S. attorney’s office in Denver, where he went to work in the civil division. In this role, Jackson worked on a wide array of issues, including medical malpractice, land condemnation, personal injury, and civil rights cases.
Jackson left the U.S. attorney’s office in 1976 to found the firm of DiManna, Eklund, Ciancio & Jackson, which became DiManna & Jackson in 1981. Jackson’s specialization shifted several times over the course of his 37 years in private practice. After starting off doing mostly criminal defense work, he began to focus more on personal injury matters. Then, when the savings and loan banking crisis hit during the 1980’s, Jackson’s firm was one of a few small firms hired to do FDIC and RTC work for the government. This work kept Jackson busy for roughly six years, and eventually led to him being hired by the Denver Baseball District as the trial attorney for the acquisition of the land upon which Coors Field stands. In the few years immediately preceding his appointment to the bench on the Denver County Court, Jackson represented lawyers and judges who were facing charges of misconduct. Jackson became “Judge Jackson” in January of 2013, returning to public service and bringing his legal career full circle.
Not surprisingly, Jackson’s commitment to serving extends beyond his practice as a lawyer. He helped found Colorado’s oldest minority bar association, the Sam Cary Bar Association, in 1971. Jackson is also a board member for History Colorado, an organization that is a Smithsonian Affiliate and oversees museums, cultural centers, and educational programs across the state. Finally, Jackson and his family are very involved in the preservation and renovation of a historic area known as Lincoln Hills near Nederland, Colorado. Lincoln Hills was developed in 1922 as a recreation area for African-American families who were often not welcome in more popular vacation spots, and was only one of four such areas in the United States. Jackson has been instrumental in the refurbishing of Wink’s Lodge, a resort that was the centerpiece of the community. A historic display about the lodge at the Colorado History Museum features Jackson and several of his family members. He has received numerous awards, including Colorado Law’s Knous Award in 2010 and the Colorado Bar Association Award of Merit in 2011. Jackson’s life is a positive example for lawyers and law students everywhere, and Colorado Law is honored to call him one of our own.
Five Questions for Judge Gary Jackson
What is your fondest memory of being a student at Colorado Law?
In 1967, during my first year, there was a law student dormitory in the Kittredge Complex, and I built a lot of friendships sitting around the dorm with everyone–friendships that have lasted 45 years.
What do you know now that you wish you had known in law school?
That I was going to graduate. I wish I had the confidence during law school to know that I was going to make it through.
What advice would you give to current students as they’re preparing to graduate?
Integrity and character are very important. There are a lot of brilliant law students and lawyers out there, but the things that separate a great lawyer from everyone else are integrity, character, and professionalism.
Who was the biggest influence on your career?
My family. Having great support from family is the kind of thing you need to succeed.
Of what accomplishment are you most proud?
Receiving the Colorado Bar Association Award of Merit–it’s the highest recognition for a lawyer in the state, and I was extremely honored. Also, successfully running my own firm for 37 years (we never missed payroll) and beginning and ending my career in public service.