The 2021 recipient of the Sonny Flowers Award, awarded by University of Colorado Law School, is Hon Gary M. Jackson (’70).
The University of Colorado Law School celebrated eight alumni and friends at its 40th annual awards celebration on Thursday, June 17, 2021. The ceremony was held virtually.
The Colorado Law Alumni Awards recognize distinguished alumni and friends for their contributions to the legal profession, service to their communities, and dedication to the law school. Proceeds from this year’s event benefit the Dean’s Fund for Excellence, which supports Colorado Law’s areas of strategic importance, including the Anti-Racism and Representation Initiative, and the Law Alumni Scholarship Fund, which supports scholarships awarded annually to students who have demonstrated academic achievement, financial need, and service to the law school community.
With the exception of the Dean’s Choice Awards, honorees were nominated by their peers and selected by the Law Alumni Board.
The 2021 Sonny Flowers Award was given to the Hon. Gary M. Jackson (’70). This is a new award that recognizes alumni who have demonstrated an exceptional commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion among the law school and legal profession, specifically including the advancement of individuals from underrepresented groups.
About Hon. Gary M. Jackson (’70)
Gary M. Jackson, a native of Colorado, grew up in Denver and graduated with honors from George Washington High School. He received an academic scholarship to the University of Redlands in California and earned his undergraduate degree and Juris Doctor from the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder.
He began his legal career as a deputy district attorney with the Denver District Attorney’s Office in 1970. In 1974, he was assigned to the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Colorado, where he received a special commendation from U.S. Attorney Edward Levi and FBI Director Clarence Kelley for his successful representation of the FBI in a multi-million dollar civil suit.
In 1976, Jackson entered private practice and became a partner in the law firm of DiManna, Eklund, Ciancio & Jackson. During his initial year in private practice, he was one of the co-founders of the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar. In 1982, Michael DiManna and Jackson formed the law firm of DiManna & Jackson, a partnership that continued until Jackson’s appointment by Mayor Michael Hancock to the Denver County Court bench in January 2013. Leading up to his taking the bench, other legal achievements included appointment to the 18th Judicial District Judicial Performance Commission, the 2nd Judicial Nominating Commission, and the U.S. District Court’s Nominating Commission for the selection of U.S. District Court judges and magistrates.
In 1971, Jackson was one of the founders of the Sam Cary Bar Association, an organization dedicated to promoting professionalism and the exchange of ideas among African-American lawyers and judges. He has had many roles within the organization including treasurer and president; in 2006 was honored with the King Trimble Lifetime Achievement Award.
Numerous other community organizations have benefitted from Jackson’s leadership and involvement, including the Northeast Denver Youth Services, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, and the Denver Urban League. With his participation in the Sam Cary Scholarship Endowment Fund and the Delta Eta Boule Foundation (former chairman), these organization have awarded deserving African-American students more than a quarter million dollars in scholarships.
Jackson has generously shared his legal knowledge and experience through mentoring programs and instruction at colleges and law schools throughout Colorado. His active participation in the legal community has also meant serving on several boards including the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, the American College of Trial Lawyers, and the American Board of Trial Advocates (of which he is the former president). Jackson is currently one of the leaders of the Colorado Bar Association/Colorado Judicial Institute Coalition on Judicial Diversity, which has a two-year initiative to address the lack of diversity in the Colorado state judiciary.
With a celebrated legal career spanning five decades, Jackson has been recognized with many accolades and awards including the National Bar Association’s Wiley A. Branton Award (2001), the Order of the Coif from CU Law School (2003), Colorado Super Lawyer (2006 – 2012), the CU George Norlin Award (2008), the William Lee Knous Award from CU Law School (2010), the Colorado Bar Association’s Award of Merit (2011), the George Washington High School Inaugural Hall of Fame (2016), and the National Black District Attorney’s Association Norman Early Founder’s Award (2019).
Jackson, retired as of Dec. 30, 2020, presided in the Criminal and General Session Divisions of Denver County Court. In 2018 the Colorado Judicial Institute recognized him with its Judicial Excellence Award for County Court Judge of the year. Mayor Hancock presented Jackson with the Monte Pascoe Civic Leadership Award in 2018. This award recognized Jackson for his outstanding local and national service and leadership seeking social justice and commitment to finding financial support for students seeking to enter into the legal profession. In 2019, Law Week Colorado in its annual Barrister’s Magazine selected Jackson as trial judge of the year. In 2020, the Center for Legal Inclusiveness awarded Jackson the Hon. Wiley Daniel Lifetime Achievement Award. The Colorado County Court Judges’ Association awarded Jackson the Anthony Greco Award for his judicial excellence and leadership. In addition, the Colorado chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates awarded Jackson its Judicial Excellence Award.
Jackson is married to Regina Lee Jackson. They have two children and four grandchildren.