Reprinted with permission of the Albuquerque Journal
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Well-Regarded Ex-Lawmaker Was Outspoken
By Lloyd Jojola
Journal Staff Writer
Former state Rep. Jerry Lee Alwin was a man of his convictions, a maverick Republican who stood strong in support of "traditional values" and one who always kept his word, friends and family say.
Alwin, who moved to Post Falls, Idaho, from Albuquerque about a year and a half ago, died June 19 after suffering a massive heart attack, his family said. He was 61.
"He was an extraordinary individual; he was a man of his convictions," said Raymond Sanchez, a Democrat and former speaker of the state House of Representatives. "He wasn't wedded to his party; he was more concerned about people.
"He had a sense about him that what he did, he did because he believed (in it), whether we agreed with one another."
Alwin served as a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives from 1987 to 1998. He chose not to seek re-election in 1998.
"His issues were family-value issues," said his wife, Sharon Alwin. "He was anti-gambling and was considered an outspoken advocate against gay rights marriages and for a marriage between a man and a woman.
"He was one of the most conservative members of the House, and enjoyed his legislative experience there immensely, and had great respect for both sides of the aisle."
Born in Davenport, Iowa, to Phillip and Margaret Alwin, Jerry Lee Alwin grew up in Madison, Wis. He moved to the Duke City with his family in the late 1950s, his wife said. He earned a degree in business administration at the University of New Mexico in the early 1960s.
Alwin had a diverse and successful business career.
Among his endeavors, he founded Alwin School of the Dance in the mid-1960s, developing the Albuquerque business into the largest dance school in the West.
He also worked for RCA Home Electronics from 1968 to 1983. He was a territory manager responsible for marketing a full line of products, his accounts ranging from small businesses to national chains. He was primarily responsible for west Texas, New Mexico and southern Colorado, but special assignments took him to Spain and Hawaii.
In 1988, he bought Imperial Travel Services Unlimited, which he operated for about seven years.
Most recently he worked as a regional manager with Tyco Fire & Security of Spokane, Wash.
"That was a surprise," Sharon Alwin said. "We actually moved here to retire and he was still working."
Outside of work, Alwin enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren and "loved his bagpipe."
As a state representative, Alwin served on committees that included business and industry, judiciary, courts, corrections and criminal justice.
A news report described Alwin as a major player in corrections legislation at the time he left office.
Rep. Earlene Roberts, R-Lovington, said Alwin went all over the country to inspect other corrections operations in order to find ways to better New Mexico's system. Alwin would carry substantial law enforcement and corrections legislation and, with the American Legislative Exchange Council, was the 1993 National Criminal Justice Legislator of the Year.
Roberts said Alwin was a man who "never minced his words."
"He was very honest," she said. "You always knew where he stood. He had a really good heart."
Sanchez remembered the "always happy, joking, outgoing" Alwin as a legislator who championed many children's issues and later leaned strongly toward "faith-based policies."
Alwin understood everyone didn't agree with him, Sanchez said, but he respected them.
"He did it because he believed in it," Sanchez said. "It was that, sort of, what I always call beneficence. You get elected to do good, not to hurt other people. And I think Jerry Alwin epitomized that. Even though we didn't always agree, he was there to do what he felt was good without being political about it."
When Alwin announced he would not seek re-election, the Albuquerque Journal editorial page editor wrote this: "A maverick who always went his own way, Alwin's departure will silence an outspoken and independent legislative voice."
Alwin was a member of numerous community groups. He was a member of Hope Evangelical Free Church, and more recently Coeur d'Alene Bible Church in Idaho.
Alwin is survived by his wife, Sharon Alwin; son, Troy Alwin of Albuquerque; daughter, Tammy Alwin of Albuquerque; stepson, Chad Golson of Houston; stepdaughter, Joie Perry of Albuquerque; four grandchildren; aunt Katherine Fishback of Albuquerque; aunt Betty Williamson of Madison, Wis.; cousins, Kathy and Michael Anthony and Nancy and Robert Agnew.