John Francis Neylan
Neylan was born in New York City. After graduation from Seton Hall College in New Jersey in 1903, he went West. California was his destination, but he stopped off in Arizona and worked there for several years as a teamster, bank teller and reporter. The desire for a newspaper career took him to San Francisco and, eventually, a job with the Bulletin. One of his first assignments was to cover Hiram Johnson's first gubernatorial campaign. Johnson was impressed with the young reporter, and after he was elected, appointed Neylan Chairman of the newly created State Board of Control. The Board installed an accounting system and drew up the state's first budget, and was so successful in regulating the state's finances, that the $2,000,000 deficit, which was Johnson's inheritance, was converted into an $8,000,000 surplus at the end of six years.
In his spare time in Sacramento, Neylan studied law, and he passed the bar examination in 1916. After Governor Johnson went to Washington as U.S. Senator, Neylan moved to San Francisco to practice law, and he became one of the best known and important lawyers in the state. His talents attracted the attention of William Randolph Hearst, and in 1919 Neylan negotiated Hearst's purchase of the Call newspaper and became its publisher. By 1925 the lawyer was Hearst's trusted advisor and became general counsel for all his enterprises. Although their professional relationship ended in 1937, the two remained good friends.
In 1928 Governor Clement C. Young appointed Neylan to the Board of Regents of the University of California, where he served for 27 years. Neylan was an influential member of the Board's Finance Committee and was in great measure responsible for the University's role in the development of atomic research. Neylan and Robert Gordon Sproul were members of the Bohemian Club, and Sproul sponsored Ernest Lawrence's membership in 1932. Through the club, Lawrence met William H. Crocker and Edwin Pauley; influential men who helped him get money for his energy investigations. Neylan believed strongly in Lawrence's vision.
In 1949-1950 he was a central figure in the bitter controversy over the loyalty oath. He resigned his regency in October 1955. Shortly thereafter he went into semi-retirement. He removed his law practice from San Francisco to Palo Alto, to be nearer to his ranch, Corte Madera, and planned to write his memoirs. He died on August 19, 1960.
Neylan received an honorary degree in Doctor of Law from Oglethorpe University in 1936. He appeared on the cover of Time Magazine on April 29, 1935. An extensive collection of his professional and personal papers are on file at the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.