Mike O'Callaghan was a war hero who became a popular governor of Nevada and later executive editor of "The Las Vegas Sun”. As governor, Mr. O’Callaghan concerned himself with issues including the welfare of disadvantaged children, the preservation of Lake Tahoe, and affordable housing. He was an executive editor and chairman of ‘’The Sun’’ for 25 years. Mr. O’Callaghan served eight years as governor beginning in 1971. After closely winning his first term, he was re-elected to a second term. Donal (Mike) O’Callaghan was born on Tuesday September 10, 1929, in La Crosse, Wisconsin, but he grew up on a farm in Minnesota. His family later returned to Wisconsin, where his mother taught in a one-room schoolhouse. Mr. O’Callaghan adopted the first name “Mike” as a young boxer. He joined the Marines at 16 and then worked as an ironworker in Pasco, Washington.
During the Korean War he served in the Army and received the Silver Star for trying to rescue other soldiers who were under fire. He was hit by a mortar round and lost his left leg below the knee. Mike O’Callaghan also received the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and a Silver Star for valor. After the war, he moved to Henderson, Nevada, where he became a teacher.
He later became the state’s first health and welfare director. Also, he was the regional director in the federal Office of Emergency Preparedness before turning to politics.
“The one big rap against me was that I was never able to hold down a job for very long,” Mr. O’Callaghan said in 2000. “The years I spent as governor and those I have spent at 'The Sun' are the longest at any job I’ve had.”
While governor, Mr. O’Callaghan, a Democrat, pushed for an equal rights bill on housing and advocated for prisoners’ rights, arguing that companies should hire them and give them a chance to turn their lives around. Although the latter philosophy drew criticism with some, labeling him as too liberal, Mr. O’Callaghan noted he was governor when the death penalty was reinstated in Nevada.
Mr. O’Callaghan would often visit hospitals and speak with recent amputees. “The Sun” recounted a visit Mr. O’Callaghan had with a teenager who had lost a leg in an auto accident.
“This never stopped me from doing anything I wanted in life,” Mr. O’Callaghan told the youth. “Don’t let it stop you from pursuing your dreams.”
If Mr. O’Callaghan was still alive he would tell all of us to not let anything stop us from following our dreams, so let’s follow his saying and we will have a better life. After all, Donal “Mike” O’Callaghan was someone really inspiring that everyone would follow. If he was still here with us he would be really proud of our school not just because we named it after him but because we represent his big saying “Don’t let it stop you from pursuing your dreams.”
He died in Las Vegas, Nevada, on a Friday, March 05, 2004. He was 74. “Mr. O’Callaghan failed at morning services at St. Viator Catholic Church”, said Sheila Dillon, his longtime executive secretary, and was taken to the hospital, where he died of a heart failure. Rest in Peace Donal “Mike” O’Callaghan: September. 10, 1929 -March 05, 2004.
Mike O’Callaghan had three sons: Michael, Brian and Timothy; two daughters, Mary Colleen and Teresa Marie; and 15 grandchildren. His wife Carolyn Randall O’Callaghan passed away on August 7, 2004, just a few months after her husband.