Cover photo for The Honorable Gloria Tanner's Obituary
The Honorable Gloria Tanner Profile Photo
1934 The 2022

The Honorable Gloria Tanner

July 16, 1934 — April 4, 2022

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The Denver Foundation

Attention:  Alumnae Gloria Tanner

1009 N, Grant Street

Denver, Colorado 80203

Gloria Travis Tanner was the third child born, on July 16, 1934, to Marcellus and Blanche Travis. Eventually, there were seven children born to the Travis family. Gloria’s siblings included Marcellus Travis, Jr. (deceased), Victoria Travis Jackson (deceased), Betty Blanche Travis Dunson (deceased), Hattie Helen Travis Clay (deceased), Joyce Ann Travis Spearman (deceased) and Violet Ann Travis Ricks (Atlanta).

Gloria’s parents were modest, dependable, and Christian people who instilled in their children the importance of being respectful, socially responsible, and loving to others. Achieving higher education was the focus of family discussions. Mr. and Mrs. Travis were role models to not only their children but to the greater community. They would tell their children that the best helping hand you have is at the end of your wrist so use it to help others. Gloria’s parents taught her and her siblings that they could accomplish their dreams with determination and tenacity which Gloria demonstrated early in life. Gloria exhibited a love of her family, friends, and neighbors at an early age.

As a child during the era of Jim Crow in Atlanta, Georgia, Gloria’s inspiration came from her mother. She stated, “my mother did a lot of work in the community, and I followed in her lead…Growing up in the South, where there were colored water fountains, there were bathrooms you couldn’t go to, and seeing all the nonsense things that were going on at that time, I think it made me want to try to make a difference.”

Upon graduation from David T. Howard High School in Atlanta, Gloria joined the United States Air Force and served her country for three years. During her service in the Air Force, Gloria met Theodore (Ted) Ralph Tanner, the love of her life. Gloria and Ted entered holy matrimony on December 29, 1955. They moved to Denver, Colorado where their children, Terrance Ralph Tanner, Tanvis Renee Tanner, and Tracey Lynne Tanner, were born. In 1959, Gloria founded The Reginas, a social and civic organization that is now 63 years old.

Before attending college, Gloria was an administrative assistant for the Office of Hearings and Appeals at the United States Department of the Interior from 1967-1972. She reported for the Denver Weekly News, an African American newspaper, from 1972-1976, and worked as a real estate agent.

She was executive assistant to Lt. Governor George Brown. In 1974, she earned a Bachelor of Arts (Magna Cum Laude) degree, in political science, from Metropolitan State University of Denver and, in 1976, a Master’s degree in Urban Affairs from the University of Colorado. She was a graduate of the American Management Association Program for Women in Top Managerial Positions and the Women in Leadership Program at the J. F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Gloria began her career in politics in 1976 as an executive assistant for Lt. Governor George Brown. In 1978, she became executive director of communications for state Senator Regis Groff. In 1985, she won a seat in the Colorado House of Representatives; and in 1994, she replaced Senator Groff as the first Black female state senator.

Gloria was the first African American woman to serve as a Colorado state senator and the second African American to be elected to a leadership position in the Colorado House of Representatives, where she was chair of the Minority Caucus. During her seventeen (17) years in public service, she served as a member of the senate’s joint budget committee, initiated and sponsored legislation on key issues such as marital discrimination in the workplace, parental responsibility, worker’s compensation cost savings, health benefit programs to cover screening for prostate cancer, civil rights for women and minorities, Colorado’s Safe Haven Law – allows mothers to drop off newborns at fire stations and other emergency locations with no questions asked, and parental rights for adoptive parents. Gloria obtained, through a state budget bill, $250,000, to start restoration work for the Dearfield community, a historically Black-only town in Weld County.

After retirement from public service, Gloria continued to lead. She worked to bring more people of color into politics. In 2000, she established the Senator Gloria Tanner Leadership and Training Institute for future Black Women Leaders of Colorado which identifies, prepares, educates, and encourages Black women to take on roles of leadership in the public and private sector. She co-founded the Washington, DC based, National Organization of Black Elected Legislators (NOBEL) which “promotes the presence of Black women in government,” and addresses the issues impacting the lives of all women. In 1977, Senator Tanner was the lead founder of Colorado Black Women for Political Action (CBWPA) and past chair of the Colorado Caucus of Black Elected Officials; she was co-founder with former Senator Regis Groff of the Colorado Black Round Table. In 1998, she served as President of the National Organization of Black Elected Legislators/Women.

This lifelong political activism garnered Gloria recognition and awards. Among her awards were: “2000 Legislator of the Year” by the Colorado Association of Community Centered Boards; a co-winner of “Legislator of the Year” by the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association in 1998; “Leadership Denver” award from the Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce; and in 2002, she was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. There are additional noteworthy awards that are not included in the above list.

The Honorable Gloria Travis Tanner had a life-long calling of community service as well. She was a member of the Denver Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Gloria also served as President of the Delta Research and Education Foundation (DREF) in Denver. She believed it was important for women to have a voice in State government and accomplished this goal of helping women and minorities through her “open door policy.”  This was a policy in which her home was open to all for advice, tasty food, and nurturing. Gloria showed grace, kindness, and outreach to all who knew her or met her for the first time. Indeed, she never met a stranger. She was a mentor to all, and her legacy is continuing through those she mentored and future generations.

Gloria’s family loved her deeply and will forever miss and remember her. Gloria was predeceased by her loving husband, Ted, in 1982. She is survived by and was a loving mother to three children – Terrance Ralph Tanner, Tanvis Renee Tanner (Todd), and Tracey Lynn Tanner (Commasau). She was the beloved grandmother of Tiffani Tanner, Terrance Tanner, Dahir Adam, Tracie Gloria Tanner, LaToya Phillips, Torrance Phillips, and Teddy Phillips. Gloria was truly blessed with five great grandchildren – Dafni Salazar, LeAysia Tanner, Carter Neal, Aspen Slankard, and Taryn Garner. Also, she is survived by one sister who will always cherish her memory, Attorney Violet Travis Ricks (Atlanta). In addition, there are nieces, nephews, great nieces, great nephews, and friends who are grateful to have experienced the presence and purpose-driven life of “Gloria.”  She was a blessing to all who knew her.

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Service Schedule

Past Services

Recitation of the Rosary

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Starts at 4:30 pm (Mountain time)

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Visitation

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

5:00 - 8:00 pm (Mountain time)

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Celebration of Life

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Starts at 11:00 am (Mountain time)

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Graveside Service

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Starts at 2:00 pm (Mountain time)

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Reception

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Starts at 3:00 pm (Mountain time)

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