His obituary ran eight words, short and understated for a colorful character who regularly wrote letters to the editor of Wyoming newspapers and was Wyoming’s perennial candidate for decades.
“Hamburg, Albert, Torrington, Cremation at Schrader Funeral Home.”
Wyomingites may better recognize the name Al Hamburg, of Torrington. That’s how he signed his opinion page submissions and the name he used to file for office, which he did an estimated 21 times. He never won a race. Not on the federal, state or local level.
Hamburg died Sept. 10 of heart failure at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, said his son, Albert Hamburg Jr. He was 82.
He was a sometimes Republican, sometimes Democrat, sometimes independent, sometimes Libertarian. In 1989, he ran as a New Alliance Party candidate and forged signatures of dead people to get that party on the ballot, which led to a felony conviction, probation and a ban from holding state office.
He got his voting rights restored in 2003 and called the conviction a frame-up.
In 1984, Hamburg filed for his dog, Woofer D. Coyote, to run for president. That year, he also tried to run a snake, Sandra Snakey, for Congress.
As for Hamburg, he ran for president in 2000, 2004 and 2008, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Hamburg told the Star-Tribune in April that running for office was an addiction. He loved the attention he received. He liked talking to reporters and wasn’t shy about sharing his opinions.
Every two years, when it was time for candidates to file for office with the Wyoming secretary of state, Hamburg said he would think, “Oh, God, I’ve got to run, and I’ve got to run again.”
In April, the Star-Tribune interviewed him because he had filed to run as a Democrat against U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi. He lost in the primary, receiving 19.8 percent of the vote.
Among the issues that prompted him to run: “They’re wasting our tax dollars on stupid military crap.” And, “We’ve got to speak out against these illegal aliens in the country. They’re already overrunning the country. ‘Press 1 for English.’ Everything else is Spanish.”
Hamburg was a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars, and he liked to mail newspaper reporters and editors photocopies of his military awards, sometimes frustrated by journalists who he didn’t think were properly acknowledging his service.
In recent years, Hamburg vehemently disagreed with the objectives of the Hispanic civil rights organization the National Council of La Raza. He wrote at least 12 letters to the editor of the Star-Tribune and other newspapers decrying the organization.
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La Raza doesn’t have any affiliates in Wyoming, according to the group’s website.
In addition to making headlines in the legislative branch, Hamburg was a plaintiff in a case before the Wyoming Supreme Court. He sued a woman for breaking a written contract stipulating the exchange of a 1970 Pontiac for $100 and 100 sexual favors.
The court voided the contract. Justice C. Stuart Brown called the case “an insult to the judicial system and the citizens of this state.”
“I was going with her,” Hamburg said in April. “And we made a deal for this car. She was supposed to give me 100 pieces, and I was supposed to give her the car. After 17, I gave the car to her early, put it in her name. And she told me, ‘Screw off, I’m not going to give you no more.’ And I said, ‘I’ll see you in court.’”
Hamburg’s son said he first ran for office in the 1970s, seeking election as the Goshen County sheriff.
“He just liked to shock people and get people talking,” said Albert Hamburg Jr., 53.
Hamburg was born in Gering, Nebraska, and lived there and in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Torrington most of his life, except for stints in the Army. He worked as a house and sign painter, Albert Jr. said.
He was married twice and had four sons, said Albert Jr., his eldest, who said his son Michael died last year and Hamburg was affected because they were close.
“He had an old printing press,” the younger Hamburg said. “He liked to print up signs and slogans. He just loved studying the old printing methods and advertising and things like that. He educated himself just by reading. He had a library of thousands and thousands of books. Every day he read."
Hamburg recently moved from his home to senior apartments in Torrington where there was an elevator and lots of people.
Marti Ernst was a neighbor but first got to know Hamburg when she proofread his letters to the editor at the Torrington Telegram.
“A lot of people thought Al was kooky,” she said. “He was a little different. Living in Torrington, everybody knew him.”
But Ernst found him to be intelligent and friendly and generous with his neighbors.
Hamburg’s son described his father giving a neighbor a pair of his shoes because the neighbor needed them.
“He wasn’t a rich man, but he tried to be generous where he could,” Albert Hamburg Jr. said. “A lot of people were afraid of him. But if you were his friend, you were his friend.”