Robert Delaney (1917—2008) One of the Greatest, 0518 COBJ, Vol. 47, No. 5 Pg. 64

Position:Vol. 47, 5 [Page 64]

47 Colo.Law. 64

Robert Delaney (1917–2008) One of the Greatest

Vol. 47, No. 5 [Page 64]

The Colorado Lawyer

May, 2018



Robert “Bob” Delaney was born in 1917 in Meeker, Colorado, and grew up on the family ranch on the lower White River. His grandparents settled there in the early 1880s, at a time when it was still inhabited by Native Americans and only a couple of years after the Ute uprising known to history as the Meeker Massacre.1 “My family got along with the Indians. They had to,” he used to say. The lower White River proved to be a difficult place to ranch, and one family member observed of the original ranch that it would be hard to find a tract “where the river was more crooked or the brush was more dense, or the possibility of constructing a good, inexpensive ditch more difficult.”2

Bob’s mother, Anne Carbrey, was a schoolteacher who obtained a teaching position in Rio Blanco County in 1909 only to discover, upon arrival, that the school was some 26 miles downriver from Meeker, the nearest town. But here she met James Delaney, whose family by then had several ranches in the area. They married in 1913 and subsequently had three children, including Robert and his two sisters, Elizabeth and Claire. In that era, when the children were young, their ride to a rural schoolhouse was on horseback, no matter the weather. Later they moved into town, to Meeker, to attend the higher grades of school, returning to the ranch in the summer.3 In 1935 James Delaney was killed in a ranch accident. Bob graduated from Meeker High School a few months later and decided he did not want to be a rancher. Tis was during the Depression and there seemed little on offer but relentless hard work. Bob later joked that he owed anything he ever achieved in the practice of law to the experience of digging postholes on the ranch. Nothing compared for hard work.

So he rounded up his cattle and drove them to Rife, where he sold cattle, horse, and saddle, and then used the proceeds to buy a train ticket to Denver. There, he worked his way through college and law school, working for a construction company, as a manufacturer’s agent, and for a Denver wholesale firm. At the same time, he learned to take shorthand, a useful skill that he referred to as “the next best thing to having a memory.”

He attended the University of Denver, and then enrolled in the Westminster Law School in what he anticipated would be the Class of 1942. The school was located in downtown Denver, 16th and Glenarm, so that “students employed in the business district can attend,” according to the school catalog.4 Classes met every evening (except Sunday), and it was “one of the very few schools in the nation which presents a three year standard law course in the evening.”5 Bob said his Westminster education served him well because classes were taught by pragmatic, practicing attorneys and focused on “exactly what we would need” to practice law.

In 1941, beginning his final year of law school, Bob went to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the Denver field office. He remembered December 7 as a quiet Sunday in the office, until suddenly the telexes began chattering furiously with news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and subsequent orders. One such order was that Robert Delaney was to be on a plane to Alaska by December 9. Law school was on hold until the end of the war.6

After working for 15 months in the FBI’s Juneau field office, Bob opted to join the Army Air Corps, and was about to ship out to the South Pacific as a gunner on a B-29 bomber w hen the war ended. One benefit of his time in the military was that, while stationed in California, he met Connie Wheat, a cousin of one of his fellow airmen. They were married in 1946 in Los Angeles, California, and moved to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, where Bob...

To continue reading