Mike O'Callaghan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Mike O'Callaghan
Mike O'Callaghan.jpg
23rd Governor of Nevada
In office
January 4, 1971 – January 1, 1979
Lieutenant Harry Reid
Robert E. Rose
Preceded by Paul Laxalt
Succeeded by Robert List
Personal details
Born Donal Neil O'Callaghan
(1929-09-10)September 10, 1929
La Crosse, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died March 5, 2004(2004-03-05) (aged 74)
Paradise, Las Vegas, Nevada
Resting place Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Boulder City, Nevada
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Carolyn J. Randall
(m. 1954–2004)[1]
Alma mater University of Idaho
Religion Roman Catholic
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch U.S.Marine Corps
U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army
Years of service 1946–1948
Battles/wars Korean War
Awards Bronze Star ribbon.svg Bronze Star
Silver Star ribbon.svg Silver Star
Purple Heart BAR.svg Purple Heart

Donal Neil "Mike" O'Callaghan (September 10, 1929 – March 5, 2004) was an American politician. He was the 23rd Governor of the U.S. state of Nevada from 1971 to 1979. He was a member of the Democratic Party.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born in 1929 in La Crosse, Wisconsin, O'Callaghan later lived in Sparta, Wisconsin, where his family subsistence farmed.[3] He lied about his age to join the Marines at 16 and served until 1948. He attended Boise Junior College and joined the Air Force in 1950 and served as an intelligence operator in the Aleutian Islands. O'Callaghan transferred to the Army in 1952 in order to see combat and lost part of his left leg after being hit by a mortar round during a battle in the Korean War. He was awarded the Silver Star and Bronze Star and returned to the United States. He attended the University of Idaho in Moscow and completed his bachelor's and master's degree in education in 1956, then became a high school teacher and boxing coach in Nevada.[4] He was U.S. Senator Harry Reid's history teacher at Basic High School in Henderson, and later promoted Reid's political career. From 1961–63, he was the chief probation officer and director of court services for Clark County.[4]

Political career[edit]

O'Callaghan's political career began in 1963, when Governor Grant Sawyer appointed him to head the state's new department of health and welfare.[4] In 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed O'Callaghan to be the regional director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness.

In 1966, O'Callaghan ran in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor, but lost. In 1970, he received the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and won a surprising victory in the general election over his Republican opponent, Edward Fike. He proved to be an extremely popular governor and was reelected in 1974 by a four-to-one margin, the greatest landslide in a gubernatorial election in state history.

The last Nevada governor who was eligible for a third term, he chose not to run in 1978.[5] After he left office he became the executive editor of the Las Vegas Sun, a job he held until his death. He was also the publisher of the Henderson Home News and Boulder City News. In the 1990s he monitored elections in Nicaragua and northern Iraq, and was a strong supporter of Israel.


O'Callaghan died on March 5, 2004, of a heart attack at the age of 74, after collapsing during the morning mass hours at Saint Viator Catholic Church in Las Vegas, Nevada.[5][6] His widow Carolyn, a native of Twin Falls, Idaho, died five months later in August 2004 at age 68. They were married in 1954 in Twin Falls and had five children; the governor died several months before their fiftieth anniversary.[1]


O'Callaghan's legacy as Nevada politician and philanthropist survives through three structures that bear his name. Mike O'Callaghan Middle School opened on the east side of Las Vegas in 1991. The Mike O'Callaghan Federal Hospital is located on Nellis Air Force Base northeast of Las Vegas. A bridge that is a part of the highway bypass around the Hoover Dam, spanning the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona, bears O'Callaghan's name as well as that of former NFL player and U.S. Army veteran Pat Tillman. The Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge was completed in October 2010.[7] Also in 2010, The O’Callaghan Resource Integrated Oncology Network (ORION) Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit charity that assists cancer patients in Nevada was established in honor Mike and Carolyn O’Callaghan, both cancer survivors.


  1. ^ a b "Nevada's First Ladies: Carolyn O'Callaghan". Nevada Women's History Project. Retrieved October 20, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Nevada governor Mike O'Callaghan". National Governors Association. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  3. ^ Hopkins, A.D. (September 12, 1999). "Mike O'Callaghan: The Popular Pugilist". Las Vegas Review-Journal. 
  4. ^ a b c "Nevada governor among Idaho alumni honored this weekend". Lewiston Morning Tribune. May 25, 1971. p. 10. 
  5. ^ a b Vogel, Ed; Kalil, J. M. (6 March 2004). "'Governor Mike' dies: State mourns man of courage, generosity, determination". Las Vegas Review Journal. Retrieved October 15, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Mike O’Callaghan, 74, Nevada Governor, Is Dead". The New York Times. AP. March 8, 2004. Retrieved October 15, 2011. 
  7. ^ Illia & Cho 2010, p. 1

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Paul Laxalt
Governor of Nevada
Succeeded by
Robert List