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Mike O'Callaghan

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Title: Mike O'Callaghan  
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Subject: Paul Laxalt, List of Governors of Nevada, Governors of Nevada, Mike O'Callaghan Federal Hospital, Desert Springs Hospital
Collection: 1929 Births, 2004 Deaths, American Amputees, American Military Personnel of the Korean War, American Politicians with Physical Disabilities, American Roman Catholics, Deaths from Myocardial Infarction, Democratic Party State Governors of the United States, Governors of Nevada, Nevada Democrats, People from La Crosse, Wisconsin, People from the Las Vegas Valley, Recipients of the Bronze Star Medal, Recipients of the Purple Heart Medal, Recipients of the Silver Star, University of Idaho Alumni
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Mike O'Callaghan

Mike O'Callaghan
23rd Governor of Nevada
In office
January 4, 1971 – January 1, 1979
Lieutenant Harry Reid (1971–1975)
Robert E. Rose (1975–1979)
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, U.S.
Resting place Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Boulder City, Nevada, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Carolyn J. Randall
(m. 1954–2004)[1]
Alma mater University of Idaho
Religion Roman Catholic
Awards Bronze Star
Silver Star
Purple Heart
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

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 1
  • Political career 2
  • Death 3
  • Legacy 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

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

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 who was eligible for a third term, he chose not to run in 1978.[6] 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 the Saint Viator Catholic Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was pronounced dead at the Desert Springs Hospital in Paradise, Las Vegas, 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 player and U.S. Army veteran Pat Tillman. 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. 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".  
  8. ^ Illia & Cho 2010, p. 1
  • Illia, Tony; Cho, Aileen (January 5, 2010). "Buffeted by High Winds and Setbacks, a Bypass Is Making History Near Hoover Dam". pp. 1–3. Retrieved October 15, 2011. Same title but no timeline. 

External links

  • Nevada State Library & Archives - Mike O'Callaghan biography
  • National Governor's Association: profile - Mike O'Callaghan
  • University of Idaho Alumni Hall of Fame - 1971 inductees
  • Mike O'Callaghan at Find a Grave
  • obituaryLas Vegas SUN
  • remembranceLas Vegas SUN
  • remembranceLas Vegas CityLife
  • Mike O'Callaghan Middle School web site
Political offices
Preceded by
Paul Laxalt
Governor of Nevada
January 4, 1971 – January 1, 1979
Succeeded by
Robert List
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