John “JD” MacFarlane was born in Pueblo, CO on October 4 th, 1933 and passed away in Denver on Februarly 16 th, 2023. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Janet, his three children Jennifer, John, and Andrew, and seven grandchildren.

JD was a leader and devoted public servant for his entire career. He represented Pueblo in the Colorado General Assembly, was elected the 33 rd Colorado Attorney General in 1974, serving two terms (1975-83), and later served as Manager of Safety for the City of Denver. Current Attorney General Phil Weiser offered this statement on his passing:

“J.D. MacFarlane was a path-making leader in Colorado. As attorney general, he invented the idea that the Colorado attorney general should serve as the People’s Lawyer, and he built the modern Colorado Department of Law. He attracted an incredibly talented team, recruited diverse lawyers, and appointed some of the first women to serve in senior positions at the department – including Jean Dubofsky and Mary Mullarkey, who went on to serve as Colorado Supreme Court Justices. J.D. also mentored generations of public servants, including myself, and set a standard of excellence that we will continue to strive to meet. His memory will live on as a blessing.”

A memorial service celebrating JD’s life is planned for Friday, June 9 at 4pm at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center, with a reception to follow.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the JD MacFarlane Scholarship Fund at Colorado Law, established to provide scholarships to law students who demonstrate a commitment to Public Service.

JD MacFarlane Endowed Scholarship Fund | CU Boulder | Giving to CU 

19 thoughts on “John “JD” MacFarlane”

  1. JD gave me my second job in n the law as an assistant AG, in 1975. He gave me an enormous amount of responsibility for a young lawyer. I will be forever indebted to him. He was a great lawyer and public servant. RIP JD.
    Ed Felter

  2. Working in J.D.’s Attorney General’s office for almost eight years was truly wonderful. Three things about the man stood out. First, though he was a politician who had consistently used politics to effect the public good, he was always an excellent lawyer and was absolutely committed to running an office that made good law. Second, there was a sense of decency which permeated his actions. Third, he always had our backs. We knew that our job was to represent the State, but that we were to ignore politics when we did so. We were to do the right thing and he would take the political heat regardless of the political consequences. He did, too. Among other things, the man had guts. He also made it clear that in criminal cases, including cases on appeal, our job was not only to seek conviction or affirmance of conviction, but to remember that as prosecutors, we had an obligation to make sure that the defendant’s rights were not violated. What a breath of fresh air.

    Those of us who got to know him got to know how much the love and support he received from Janet was. They were one formidable duo.

  3. My remembrance of J.D. is that he came to community meetings when Manual High School was in jeopardy of being closed down a number of years ago as Charter schools were being pushed on to the community. He came unannounced and most were unaware of his service as Colorado Attorney General. J.D. mostly listened, offering his thoughts as the community struggled to keep Manual an integral part of the community. His interaction with us was gentle and appreciated.

    Sincere condolences to his family, Marge Yamada Taniwaki
    Head Girl, Manual Class of 1959

  4. J.D. inspired many people far beyond the boundaries of his beloved Colorado. During his service as Attorney General, he was active as a worker and leader in the National Association of Attorneys General and was elected their President. He was a key factor in the U.S.Congress overruling a Supreme Court case limiting the powers of state AGs
    to represent their citizens in vast price fixing schemes. He inspired many of his contemporary AGs to become vigorously active in protecting consumers. He was such an effective leader of NAAG because he knew how to lead other leaders. He deployed his key staff attorneys to testify before Congress and to work with other states’ lawyers on national issues. The world is a better place for his public services, for his inspiration of young attorneys in his office, for his leadership on the national stage, for his Life. Thank you, J.D.! And deepest compassion to Janet and the family.

  5. Shortly after beginng my career as the Attorney General of Maine in 1981 I discovered J.D. and Janet and their quiet and shared commitment to making our world a better place. They believed that together we could clean our environment, enforce a competitive marketplace and stand for the civil rights of all citizens. Their leadership inspired me and other attorneys general to do the right thing without regard to the political consequences. We are today a better country – and we are all better people – because of the life JD lived. His voice will be missed.

  6. A quality public servant and a wonderful human being…J.D. had a major positive impact on the Colorado State government and holds a special place in memory for those of us who worked with him. This State owes a great debt for the role he played in insuring honest government.

  7. I was a new attorney working for Adams County Legal Services when JD hired me on. My years with JD were the most rewarding years of my life. JD hired a staff of exceptional lawyers and turned them loose for the betterment of life in Colorado. He will be sadly missed by all of us.

  8. My first six years of law practice I served as an assistant attorney general under J D Macfarlane. Serving this honest, compassionate, incorruptible, brilliant mentor was without doubt the best way I could have imagined to start my career. Soft spoken, understated, selfless, he revolutionized the role of Attorney General in Colorado from handholding state agencies to instead being an aggressive advocate for the people of the state. At the time it was a Herculean task, and he accomplished it.

    J D was not just admired and looked up to – he was truly loved by those who served him. At a reunion for him hosted at my home on August 23, 2008 around 80 former assistants and spouses attended, including three sitting Supreme Court justices, three former Denver City Attorneys and several former assistants from out of state. There were numerous tributes to honor this giant of an individual and lawyer. In my journal for that day I commented that “at the speech by J.D. at the end of the evening he once again deferred all credit for his regime to others.” That was J.D. It was never about him, it was about building a legal force for good that would provide a lasting legacy.

    Goodbye, sweet prince of a man. There are so many of us who will never forget what you did to mold our lives and careers.

  9. JD was my friend. He and Janet lived two blocks from me. His daughter stopped at our house to meet my daughter to walk to Gove together. He and Janet co-hosted a party for Doña and me when we got married. He was a droll friend who I saw at political events back in the day and often since while he walked the city and I’d see him with his shady hat hiking through the park or Cherry Creek or down Colfax. I will miss his humor and kind friendship. I was proud to be his neighbor and friend.

  10. The Fanganello Family sends condolences to JD’s family. You all have been formidable neighbors and friends, and we mourn with you.
    Joe, JoAnne, Duffy, Anne and Joan

  11. I was privileged to serve as an assistant in JD’s Department of Law for several years. Unlike his predecessors JD saw himself as the lawyer for the law and the people, not as a “yes man” for government officials (at times, much to the chagrin of the governor). He instructed us to always do the right thing regardless of the political fallout; he’d handle whatever flack came our way. I recall one instance when lawyers for a prominent real estate developer objected to our investigation of its conduct and demanded to meet personally with JD. He agreed to meet with them and the lawyers spent a good deal of time presenting JD with documents and arguments as to why this investigation should not go forward. JD listened politely, saying nothing, until the lawyers finished their presentation. He then stood up and said “I support my people”, and walked out of the room. I think he really enjoyed moments like that. JD had a wonderful sense of humor to go along with his unbounded professionalism.

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