Sam T. Taylor
It was in 1934 that a feisty young lawyer from Walsenburg–just turned 31– decided to run for the Colorado State Senate. Samuel T. Taylor waged a successful campaign and claimed a seat in the Colorado Legislature for the next forty years.
Born is the mining town of Hastings, Colorado to Sicilian parents Nicholas Tesitor and Josephine Campagne, Sam was the oldest of nine children, five boys and four girls. The Tesitor family which was initially called Tessitore, but shortened to Tesitor, came originally to Pueblo and then to many coal camps from Ludlow, Cameron, Berwind, Trinidad, Hastings, and Walsen before settling in Walsenburg. Coal mining was the family business and in the 1930’s the Tesitor family had their own mine which expanded to three mines by WWII time and they employed over 203 employees.
Sam and two of his brothers Carl and Tony bought the Taylor Mines from a man whose last name was Taylor and Sam then changed his name to Taylor feeling he might do better in politics if his name was not so Italian.
He got his law degree at the University of Colorado and went into practice with Floyd Murr, In 1934 he decided that indeed politics was for him. He ran for and was elected to the Colorado State Senate on the Democratic ticket. During his lengthy career he served as president pro tem of the Senate, majority leader, minority leader and Democratic Senate whip.
He and brother Tony also served in the Army during WWII. Sam married Walsenburg native Nina Luckenbaugh and they had one son Sam Tesitor Taylor born in 1940.
As a Senator Sam proposed creating a new state of “Huerfano” consisting of parts of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico. The “orphan” (English for Spanish word Huerfano) proposed state would have stretched from the southern city limits of Pueblo to Taos, New Mexico “everything goes to Denver and the counties in the northern part of the state. We really need the industries down in our country, but we will never get them”. One of Taylor’s pet projects over the years was a Sweepstakes lottery to raise money. He fought vainly for years to get such a proposal through the legislature. Then, finally succeeded, only to have the idea vetoed at the polls in 1972.
In that same year, 1972, his colleagues in the Senate decided to honor Taylor by renaming a state park in his honor. Senators from both sides of the aisle walked to the microphone to praise him and to support the idea. But when the proposal reached the House it was killed. The reason was Taylor himself. He had heard that the widow of the man for whom the park was named was upset over the suggestion. He went to legislators in the House and quietly asked them to put the resolution to death.
Throughout the years in the legislature, the one thing Taylor never forgot was the southern Colorado country from which he came. He supported bills to encourage the coal industry and urged support for creation of a 5000 acre park on La Veta Pass. Unfortunately, the park never became a reality.
He continued his long career being ever mindful of representing his constituents. He was generous with him time when back in Walsenburg between sessions with people who were in need of legal help and more often than not it was for free.
The thin, bespectacled lawmaker would conclude his career when the 49th General Assembly brought its 1974 session to an end. “I’m going to miss it here in the legislature but ‘Father Time’ catches up with us sooner or later. Now, I’m going back home to enjoy some of the most beautiful country in the world!” Three years later in 1977 at the age of 74 Sam Taylor passed away. He was one of the seven members of the Colorado Legislature to serve the longest period of time. Sam Taylor, not only a Spanish Peaks Legend, but a true Colorado Legend.