Howard Cannon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Howard Cannon
Cannon while serving, c. 1962
United States Senator
from Nevada
In office
January 3, 1959 – January 3, 1983
Preceded byGeorge W. Malone
Succeeded byChic Hecht
Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee
In office
January 3, 1978 – January 3, 1981
Preceded byWarren Magnuson
Succeeded byBob Packwood
Chair of the Senate Rules Committee
In office
January 3, 1973 – January 3, 1977
Preceded byB. Everett Jordan
Succeeded byDaniel Inouye
Personal details
Howard Walter Cannon

(1912-01-26)January 26, 1912
St. George, Utah, U.S.
DiedMarch 5, 2002(2002-03-05) (aged 90)
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Resting placeArlington National Cemetery
Political partyDemocratic
Dorothy Pace
(m. 1945)
RelativesCannon family
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1941–1946 (active); 1946–1947 (reserve)
RankLieutenant colonel
Battles/warsWorld War II

Howard Walter Cannon (January 26, 1912 – March 5, 2002) was an American politician from Nevada. Elected to the first of four consecutive terms in 1958, he served in the United States Senate from 1959 to 1983. He was a member of the Democratic Party.

Born in St. George, Utah, Cannon graduated from Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona Law School. In 1940, Cannon won his first election as county attorney for Washington County, Utah. The following year with the start of World War II, Cannon served in the United States Army for a year and then in the United States Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1946, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Cannon later served in the Army Air Forces Air Reserve as a major general.

In 1949, Cannon returned to politics, winning election as city attorney for Las Vegas, Nevada. After four consecutive terms in that office, Cannon defeated Republican incumbent U.S. Senator George W. Malone in the 1958 election. As senator, Cannon chaired multiple committees, including the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the Committee on Rules and Administration. Cannon also sponsored the Airline Deregulation Act, a bill signed into law by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 that lowered airfares through deregulation of the airline industry.

Cannon's final Senate term was mired in a scandal after the revelation of a 1979 meeting with Teamsters union president Roy Lee Williams where Cannon was offered a bribe to block the Motor Carrier Act of 1980. The scandal contributed to Cannon losing re-election in 1982 to Republican challenger Chic Hecht. After leaving the Senate, Cannon remained in Washington as an aviation and defense consultant for nearly a decade before retiring to Las Vegas in the mid-1990s.

Early life and education[edit]

Cannon was born in St. George, Utah. His grandfather, David Cannon, was the younger brother of George Q. Cannon and a leading figure in the building of the St. George Temple, who was later the third president of that temple. His father Walter Cannon was one of David Cannon's 31 children. Howard's parents Walter Cannon and Leah Sullivan married in 1909. When Cannon was two years old his father left for England to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for two years.[1]

Cannon went to Woodward School in St. George, close enough to his home he could walk home for lunch. He then went to Dixie High School. During summers, he worked as a bell hop at the North Rim Lodge along the Grand Canyon. In the evenings he would form a small band where he used his skills as a saxophonist to entertain guests. He delivered copies of the Deseret News around St. George on horseback.[2]

He graduated from Dixie Junior College (now Utah Tech University) and received a bachelor's degree in music education from Arizona State Teachers College (now Northern Arizona University) in 1933.[3][4][5] He then received an LL.B. from the University of Arizona Law School in 1937.[3] While studying at the University of Arizona he was the director of the university pep orchestra. Between the summer of his second and third year he directed this group at a hotel in Seattle, Washington. In the summer of 1936 after his graduation he directed an orchestra of four, performing on the SS Jefferson on a cruise from Seattle, Washington, to Yokohama, Japan. Also during his law school years Cannon competed in rodeos and learned to be an airplane pilot.

Also in the summer of 1936, Cannon began dating Dorothy Pace of Alamo, Nevada. They married on December 21, 1945.[6]

After he finished law school he returned to St. George. Among his actions on his return was buying a house adjacent to Dixie College as an investment property.[7]

Early career[edit]

Cannon became a lawyer after passing the bar exams in Arizona (1937), Utah (1938) and Nevada (1946). He served as a reference and research attorney for the Utah State Senate in 1939, and won election as county attorney of Washington County, Utah in 1940.[4]

Military service[edit]

During World War II, Cannon served as a troop carrier pilot in the United States Army Air Corps and its subsequent incarnation as the United States Army Air Forces. Assigned to the European theater, he dropped paratroopers at Saint-Come-du-Mont, Normandy and during the following combat mission in September 1944 was shot down over the Netherlands. He spent 42 days trying to return to the Allied lines with the assistance of the Dutch underground. Released from active duty in 1946, he joined the Army Air Forces Reserve until 1947 when he transitioned to the Air Force Reserve concurrent with the establishment of the U.S. Air Force as a separate service.[8] Continuing to fly in the Air Force Reserve, he achieved command pilot status and ultimately retired from the Air Force Reserve with the rank of major general.[8] His military decorations included the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart and the Air Medal (three awards).[9]

Career in Las Vegas[edit]

In 1946 Cannon established law offices in Las Vegas. In 1949 he was elected Las Vegas City Attorney, and he served four consecutive terms.[4]

U.S. Senate[edit]


In 1956, Cannon ran for the U.S. House of Representatives to succeed Republican incumbent C. Clifton Young, who ran for the U.S. Senate, but lost the Democratic primary to former Congressman Walter Baring, who then won the general election. In 1958, he was elected to the United States senate, unseating Republican Senator George W. Malone with 58% of the vote. Cannon was nearly defeated in his first re-election bid in 1964, holding off Republican Lieutenant Governor Paul Laxalt in one of the closest Senate elections ever. On election night, one of the networks actually projected that Cannon had lost, but several precincts did not report in until the next morning and gave Cannon enough votes to secure a second term. Ultimately, Cannon only won by 48 votes. He likely would have lost without Lyndon Johnson's presence atop the ticket. Johnson easily carried the state as part of his 44-state landslide that year. Cannon was re-elected with far less difficulty in 1970 by defeating Washoe County District Attorney William Raggio. He also won re-election easily over former Representative David Towell in 1976.

In the early 1980s, Cannon was ensnared in a scandal when Teamsters President Roy Lee Williams was indicted by federal prosecutors for attempting to bribe Cannon in exchange for using his influence to block the Motor Carrier Act of 1980, a bill deregulating the trucking industry. He testified that he did not know Williams or his associates and denied being offered a bribe, but other witnesses corroborated the story, and Williams was convicted. Cannon was challenged in the 1982 Democratic primary by U.S. Representative Jim Santini and won winning by about 4,500 votes but lost the general election to Republican nominee Chic Hecht, a former state senator and businessman.[10]


Senator Cannon meets with President Jimmy Carter, c. 1978

In 1964, Cannon voted for the Civil Rights Act.[11] He also helped increase funding for Nellis Air Force Base, turning Nellis into one of the most important military facilities worldwide.[12] Cannon also introduced the Airline Deregulation Act, a bill signed in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter that stopped the federal government from regulating airfare and airline routes.[13] Deregulation led to lower air fares and contributed to the growth of Las Vegas as a tourist destination.[12]

A Govtrack analysis of his votes from 1977 to 1982 rates Cannon as a moderate.[14] Americans for Democratic Action, an organization that has long issued 100-point "Liberal Quotient" scores to members of Congress, rated Cannon a 69 in 1965,[15] 41 in 1971,[16] 30 in 1977,[17] and 50 in 1982.[18] The American Conservative Union (ACU) often rated Cannon as unfavorable to conservative causes in its 100-point scale, such as 20 in 1972[19] and 29 in 1981.[20] However, the ACU scored more Cannon favorably in some years: 50 in 1971,[21] 100 in 1978,[22] and 59 in 1982.[23]

In 1981, he won the Tony Jannus Award for his distinguished contributions to commercial aviation.[24]

In 1980 he took a familiarisation ride in the SR71 Blackbird. (

Committee assignments[edit]

He had an interest in the rules and administration of the Congress, serving as chairman of several committees on that subject, including the Joint Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and Committee on Rules and Administration.[4] He chaired the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation from 1978 to 1981.[25]

Post-political life[edit]

After leaving Congress in 1983, Cannon remained in Washington as a defense and aviation consultant for 11 years.[12]

On February 2, 1988, President Ronald Reagan nominated Cannon to the inaugural Board of Trustees of the Goldwater Scholarship program.[26] The U.S. Senate confirmed Cannon by unanimous consent on March 3, 1988.[27]

On March 5, 2002, Cannon died at age 90 in a Las Vegas hospice due to congestive heart failure; he was previously diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.[28]




  1. ^ Vernetti 2008, pp. 22–24
  2. ^ Vernetti 2008, pp. 27–28
  3. ^ a b Evans, K. J. (February 7, 1999). "Howard W. Cannon (1913-): Quiet Clout". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on September 3, 1999. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d "CANNON, Howard Walter". U.S. Congress. Retrieved April 2, 2021.
  5. ^ Vernetti 2008, p. 31
  6. ^ Vernetti 2008, pp. 33, 62
  7. ^ Vernetti 2008, p. 25
  8. ^ a b Palmer, Robert P. (July 29, 2015). "Profiles in Leadership: Howard Cannon's lifetime of service to his nation, the Air Force and the aviation industry". Citizen Airman. U.S. Air Force. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  9. ^ "Howard W. Cannon". Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  10. ^ Stout, David (March 7, 2002). "Howard Cannon, 90, Senator Who Served Four Terms, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved March 31, 2021.
  11. ^ "HR 7152. Passage". Govtrack. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  12. ^ a b c Morrison, Jane Ann (March 7, 2002). "Nevada bids a fond farewell". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Archived from the original on December 26, 2002. Retrieved March 31, 2021.
  13. ^ Dye, Felicia (February 4, 2021). "What is the Airline Deregulation Act?". Wise Geek. Retrieved March 31, 2021.
  14. ^ "Sen. Howard Cannon". Govtrack. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  15. ^ "1965 Senate Voting Record" (PDF). ADA World. Americans for Democratic Action. 20 (7): 4. November 1965. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  16. ^[bare URL PDF]
  17. ^ "Senate Votes" (PDF). ADA Legislative Newsletter. Americans for Democratic Action. January 1, 1978. p. 3. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  18. ^ "Senate Votes" (PDF). The ADA World. Americans for Democratic Action. January 1983. p. 4. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  19. ^ "1972 Senate Ratings: Montana – Pennsylvania". American Conservative Union. Archived from the original on November 24, 2004. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  20. ^ "1981 Senate Ratings: Montana – Pennsylvania". American Conservative Union. Archived from the original on July 8, 2001. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  21. ^ "1971 Senate Ratings: Montana – Pennsylvania". American Conservative Union. Archived from the original on November 24, 2004. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  22. ^ "1978 Senate Ratings: Montana – Pennsylvania". American Conservative Union. Archived from the original on February 18, 1999. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  23. ^ "1982 Senate Ratings: Montana – Pennsylvania". American Conservative Union. Archived from the original on February 22, 1999. Retrieved April 18, 2021.
  24. ^ "Past Recipients". Tony Jannus Distinguished Aviation Society. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  25. ^ "Past Chairmen". United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  26. ^ "Nomination of Howard W. Cannon To Be a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation". The White House. February 2, 1988. Retrieved April 13, 2021 – via The American Presidency Project.
  27. ^ "PN849 – Howard W. Cannon – Barry Goldwater Scholarship & Excellence in Education Foundation". U.S. Congress. March 3, 1988. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  28. ^ Bernstein, Adam (March 7, 2002). "Former Nevada Sen. Howard Cannon Dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 13, 2021.
  29. ^ "Meeting Your Research Needs – Cannon Survey Center".
  30. ^ "Cannon Aviation Museum". Clark County Nevada.


External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. senator (Class 1) from Nevada
Served alongside: Alan Bible, Paul Laxalt
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by
Thomas B. Mechling
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Nevada
(Class 1)

1958, 1964, 1970, 1976, 1982
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
B. Everett Jordan
North Carolina
Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee
Succeeded by
Claiborne Pell
Rhode Island
Preceded by
Warren Magnuson
Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee
Succeeded by