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Mike O'Callaghan, 74; Newspaper Editor, Former Governor of Nevada

March 06, 2004|From Associated Press

Mike O'Callaghan, a popular former Nevada governor and executive editor of the Las Vegas Sun, died Friday of an apparent heart attack. He was 74.

O'Callaghan was attending morning Mass at St. Viator Catholic Church in Las Vegas when he collapsed, said Sheila Dillon, his longtime executive secretary. He died at Desert Springs Hospital.

A Democrat, O'Callaghan served eight years as governor, beginning in 1971.

"Nevada lost a treasure today," Gov. Kenny Guinn said in a statement. "I lost a friend and a role model."

Guinn, a Republican, praised O'Callaghan for tackling tough issues while governor, such as improving the welfare of disadvantaged children, preserving Lake Tahoe and building affordable housing in Las Vegas.

"As the editor of the Las Vegas Sun, he served not only as an important voice in Nevada but also acted as its conscience," Guinn said.

The son of a farmer, O'Callaghan was born Donal O'Callaghan in LaCrosse, Wis. He adopted the first name Mike as a young boxer. According to the Biographical Dictionary of the Governors of the United States, O'Callaghan served in the Marines from 1946 to '48, in the Air Force from 1950 to '52 and in the Army from 1952 to '53. He served in the Korean War, losing his left leg below the knee to a mortar shell.

He graduated from the University of Idaho and earned his law degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

He became a teacher in Nevada, and one of his students was Harry Reid, now a U.S. senator representing the state.

O'Callaghan was the state's first health and welfare director and a regional director in the federal Office of Emergency Preparedness before turning to politics.

After he left the governor's office, he became executive editor and chairman of the Las Vegas Sun.

He is survived by his wife, Carolyn, five children and 15 grandchildren.

Funeral services were pending.

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