Wayne K. Patterson, a prison warden who oversaw the last gas-chamber execution in Colorado, died on Oct. 30. Cause of death was not released. He was 88.
Patterson studied police administration at Northwestern University and worked as an officer with the Colorado State Patrol before serving two years with the U.S. Navy.
Upon his return to Colorado, Patterson devoted more than 40 years of his life to the Colorado Correctional System. He was the executive director of the Colorado State Parole Board for six years, spent another eight as the warden of the Buena Vista Reformatory, and ran Old Max, then the state’s highest-security prison, for eight years.
Known as “Cool Breeze,” Patterson was considered a tough but fair warden who never mistreated his prisoners. In 1957, he even persuaded the legislature to use inmates to build small parks adjacent to highways. Although he was opposed to capital punishment, he oversaw the last gas-chamber execution in Colorado history when Luis Monge was executed on June 2, 1967, for killing his wife and three of their children.
In the 1970s and ’80s, Patterson worked as the director of corrections for the city and county of Denver and the executive director of the Colorado State Parole Board. He also taught courses at Pueblo Community College in Fremont, Colo., and published two nonfiction books, “Slaughter in Cell House 3,” a nonfiction account of a prison riot at the Colorado State Prison in 1929, and his autobiography, “Keeper of the Keys.”