Mike O'Callaghan

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Mike O'Callaghan
Mike O'Callaghan.jpg
23rd Governor of Nevada
In office
January 4, 1971 – January 1, 1979
LieutenantHarry Reid (1971–1975)
Robert E. Rose (1975–1979)
Preceded byPaul Laxalt
Succeeded byRobert List
Personal details
Donal Neil O'Callaghan

(1929-09-10)September 10, 1929
La Crosse, Wisconsin, U.S.
DiedMarch 5, 2004(2004-03-05) (aged 74)
Paradise, Nevada, U.S.
Resting placeSouthern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Boulder City, Nevada, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Carolyn J. Randall
(m. 1954–2004)[1]
Alma materUniversity of Idaho
AwardsBronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star
Silver Star Medal ribbon.svg Silver Star
Purple Heart ribbon.svg Purple Heart
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceU.S. Marine Corps
U.S. Air Force
U.S. Army
Years of service1946–1948
Battles/warsKorean War

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, and a member of the Democratic Party.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born in La Crosse, Wisconsin, O'Callaghan later moved to Sparta, where his family subsistence farmed.[3] He lied about his age to join the U.S. Marine Corps, at the age of 16 and served from 1946 to 1948.

He attended Boise Junior College and joined the U.S. Air Force in 1950 and served as an intelligence operator in the Aleutian Islands. O'Callaghan was transferred to the U.S. 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.

O'Callaghan resumed his college studies at the University of Idaho in Moscow and completed his bachelor's and master's degree in education in 1956,[4] then became a high school teacher and boxing coach in Nevada.[5] He was U.S. Senator Harry Reid's history teacher at the Basic High School in Henderson and later promoted Reid's political career. From 1961 to 1963, he was the chief probation officer and director of court services for Clark County.[5]

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.[5] 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 re-elected in 1974 by a four-to-one margin, the greatest landslide in a gubernatorial election in state history.

The last Nevada governor before term limits, who was eligible for an elected third term, O'Callaghan chose not to run again in 1978.[6] After he left office O'Callaghan became the executive editor of the Las Vegas Sun, a job he held until his death in 2004. He was also the publisher of the Henderson Home News and Boulder City News. In the 1990s, O'Callaghan monitored elections in Nicaragua and northern Iraq, and was a strong supporter of the country of Israel.


Mike O'Callaghan died on March 5, 2004, of a heart attack at the age of 74, after collapsing during the morning mass hours at the Saint Viator Catholic Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was pronounced dead at the Desert Springs Hospital in Paradise, Nevada.[6][7] His widow Carolyn, a native of Twin Falls, Idaho, died five months later on August 7, 2004, of complications from cardiac surgery, at the age of 68. They were married on August 25, 1954 in Twin Falls, Idaho and had five children; the former governor died five months before their 50th anniversary.[1] Both are interred at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City, Nevada.


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 Arizona Cardinals player and U.S. Army veteran Pat Tillman. Tillman died in combat while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. The Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge was completed on October 14, 2010.[8] 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 of 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. Archived from the original on 16 May 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
  3. ^ Hopkins, A.D. (September 12, 1999). "Mike O'Callaghan: The Popular Pugilist". Las Vegas Review-Journal.
  4. ^ "Graduate school". Gem of the Mountains, University of Idaho yearbook. 1956. p. 50.
  5. ^ a b c "Nevada governor among Idaho alumni honored this weekend". Lewiston Morning Tribune. Idaho. May 25, 1971. p. 10.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "Mike O'Callaghan, 74, Nevada Governor, Is Dead". The New York Times. AP. March 8, 2004. Retrieved October 15, 2011.
  8. ^ Illia & Cho 2010, p. 1


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Paul Laxalt
Governor of Nevada
January 4, 1971 – January 1, 1979
Succeeded by
Robert List