American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing
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James Grafton Rogers, 1883–1971

  • In Memoriam
  • Climb Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 1972


The death of James Grafton Rogers on April 23, 1971 marked the close of perhaps the most varied career of any native of Colorado, a career which extended its influence, however, far beyond the limits of that state — nationally and even internationally. A list of his accomplishments, honors and creations would be much too long tor this memorial. He achieved pre-eminence as a lawyer, public servant, civic leader, international financier, diplomat, expert in military intelligence, historian, teacher, educational administrator, author, researcher, playwright, song writer, leader of men and inspiration of youths.

This memorial, however, must confine itself to his activities in mountaineering, conservation and nature. He was President of the American Alpine Club from 1938 through 1940, the first President of the Club from the Rocky Mountain region and, by coincidence, a relative by marriage of our present President, John L. J. Hart. He was Western Vice President of the American Alpine Club from 1932 through 1934.

He was not an acrobatic rock climber or a leader of great expeditions in the furthest reaches of the world, but he was, for his day, an adventurous mountaineer and a true explorer of the then unknown back country of Colorado. He tramped its valleys and climbed some 17 of its 14,000 foot peaks at a time when people confined themselves to the tracks of the narrow gauge railroads, the pioneer trails and old mining camps. He was an organizer and the first President of the Colorado Mountain Club, which met at his home and was familiarly known as the “Rogers Club,” because a large portion of its membership consisted of his family, including his brother, Edmund, later Superintendent of Rocky Mountain National and Yellowstone National Parks. During this period the Colorado Mountain Club spearheaded the drive to create Rocky Mountain National Park and Dinosaur National Monument. As Chairman of the Colorado Geographic Board and President of the Colorado Geographic Society, he participated in the naming of many of its peaks.

As Trustee, then President, then Chairman of the Board of the Colorado State Historical Society, his contribution to the knowledge of the history of Colorado’s mountains is enormous. He compiled a card index of Colorado Place Names, a unique original concept which occupies yards of space in the Colorado Historical Society’s library shelves. At the very time of his death at the age of 87 he was engaged in the compilation of a list and reconcilement of the names and locations of all of the passes in Colorado, which in truth are a key to its history. Only a few years before his death he wrote a charming little book called My Rocky Mountain Valley, his daily observations concerning the history, geology, flora, fauna, seasons and anecdotes concerning Clear Creek Valley and Colorado's Victorian jewel of a town called Georgetown, where he spent most of his “retirement” as Mayor, called by the ancient statutes of the municipality “Police Judge.” Lovers of western poetry and song will never cease to enjoy his “Old Dolores” and “Santa Fe Trail.”

We will merely mention that at various times he was a minister in the Allied Electoral Mission to Greece; President and Director of the Foreign Bondholders Council; Deputy Director as well as Chairman of the Planning Group of the Office of Strategie Services, predecessor of the CIA Trustee of the World Peace Foundation; Master of Timothy Dwight College at Yale; and Dean of both Colorado’s and Denver’s Schools of Law.

Jim Rogers, through his influence with Secretary of War Stimson, under whom he had served as Assistant Secretary of State in the Hoover Administration, and his long term friendship with General Marshall, then Chief of Staff, helped break a bureaucratic log jam which led to approval of the creation of the famed 10th Mountain Division, the elite group of highly trained mountaineering troops who learned their trade at Camp Hale in Colorado, drove up the chain of Apennines under the terrible conditions and broke into the valley of the Po.

His philosophy in mountaineering, as in all endeavors, is summed up in a phrase from a little play The Fire of Romance which he wrote for performance by the Denver Cactus Club: “We scale the summits only to unmask still loftier summits for another’s task.”


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