AURORA | State Rep. John Buckner, D-Aurora died Thursday after a brief bout with the inflammatory disease sarcoidosis. He was 67.
A memorial service is slated for 11 a.m. June 12 at New Hope Baptist Church, 3701 Colorado Blvd. in Denver.
Mr. Buckner, who represented Colorado House District 40 in southern Aurora, took leave from the General Assembly in April for the remainder of the legislative session to address health concerns.
In the state House, Mr. Buckner was chairman of the House Education Committee, where he was a proponent of streamlining Colorado student assessments.
“What a lovely, smart, accomplished man,” said state Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, on Twitter after hearing word of Buckner’s death. “He will be sorely missed at (the General Assembly).”
Before he was first elected to the Colorado House in 2012 in a win over incumbent Cindy Acree, Mr. Buckner was best known as an educator and administrator at Cherry Creek School District. He was named assistant principal at Laredo Middle School in 1975, and later worked as an assistant principal at Smoky Hill High School and Prairie Middle School. But his career is best remembered for his tenure as principal at Overland High School, where he worked from 1988 to 2005. The gymnasium at Overland was named in his honor.
“I want to fundamentally change the conversation,” Buckner said during his first run for House District 40 in 2012. “Government should be an active participant in the creation of opportunities. I am wholly confident in the American system and … I believe that collectively, we are much better than we are individually.”
Buckner won a second term in the 2014 general election.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said he was “greatly saddened” by the news of Mr. Buckner’s death.
“I’ve known him for 30 years, going through the Aurora Chamber of Commerce’s first leadership class with him in 1985,” Coffman said. “I always found him to be kind, soft spoken and passionate about public education. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones.”
Mr. Buckner also served on the boards of the Colorado Institute for Educational Inquiry, the Multi-Culture Task Force for Cherry Creek Schools, and the Colorado State Board of Education’s Principal and Administrator Standards Board. He also served as executive director for Excellence and Equity for Cherry Creek Schools.
“We lost a great legislator, educator, leader, and mentor,” fellow Auroran and state Rep. Jovan Melton said. “John was truly all of these things to me … Words can’t express the loss I feel for his family and loved ones, for the thousands of students he taught, and for the entire State of Colorado.”
Mr. Buckner is survived by his wife, Janet; twin daughters, Joy and Jennifer; a son, Jay; and three grandchildren.
“He was a great statesman and was a voice of clarity and conviction on educational policy,” said state Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora. “The world has lost a tireless advocate for kids, families, justice and equal rights.”
A committee of Democratic Party members will convene in the coming weeks to address the vacancy in the Legislature created by Mr. Buckner’s death.
A memorial fund to support medical research and educational causes in Mr. Buckner’s name. To learn more, visit www.gofundme.com/JohnWBuckner.