Bill Wise, Boulder assistant DA for nearly 30 years, dies
boulder» Bill Wise, who served as Boulder County’s Assistant District Attorney for almost 30 years, died Tuesday after a battle with cancer. Wise was 79. Wise took the role in the Boulder DA’s Office after campaigning with his friend and fellow University of Colorado law graduate, Alex Hunter, who was elected district attorney in 1972.
“I knew him for three years in law school and then we were in private practice together for five years before we ran for DA,” Hunter said. “And when I say ‘we’ ran, I mean it exactly that way. The two of us were a team.”
For 28 years, Wise served as the office’s second-incommand until retiring in January 2001, working primarily in an administrative role and ensuring the office ran smoothly.
“He was good with personnel, and he knew everybody,” Hunter said. “He was the kind of guy where people could go in and sit in his office and lay out whatever problem they had, personal or professional. I think that was Bill’s greatest strength.”
Boulder District Judge Bruce Langer first met Wise while working as a crime reporter in the mid80s.
“He was sort of the spokesman for the office, and he was very available,” Langer said. “I think he enjoyed talking to reporters. He made reporters, especially young ones like I was, very comfortable.”
When Langer went to law school, he served as a law clerk with Hunter and Wise, eventually joining Wise as a prosecutor in the Boulder DA’s Office.
“Bill was one of the kindest, most generous people I ever met and he had no ego, which is unusual for a lawyer,” Langer said. “I learned from him that it’s important, even though you’re a prosecutor, you’re still a person. And even though people you are prosecuting are alleged or have committed crimes, they are people too.”
Langer recalled one time that Wise took a break from his administrative duties to handle a hearing at the jail — “probably more for fun than anything else” — and saw a man there because of a small court fee.
“Literally, he owed something like a dollar and a quarter,” Langer said. “So Bill reached into his pocket, got a dollar and a quarter and gave it to the judge and said, ‘Let him go.’ That’s not normally the role of the prosecutor.”
In 1975, then-Boulder County Clerk Clela Rorex began issuing same-sex marriage licenses based on the advice of Wise, who said he could see nothing in the law prohibiting her from doing so.
Even after his retirement, Wise found time in between rounds of his beloved golf to still remain involved with the local law community. Current Boulder DA Stan Garnett said he sought out Wise when Garnett was considering running for the office in 2008.
“He was always very thoughtful and helpful to me in talking about the office and talking about the philosophy that he and Alex had and talking to me about some ideas for change,” Garnett said. “He was a gentleman with great war stories.”
Friends and family gathered for a service in Denver on Wednesday, which would have been Wise’s 80th birthday.
“To think of him not around anymore is really hard for me,” Hunter said. “But I have a lot of good memories though.”
had gone to law school with Alex Hunter. He was 79.