Grant Sawyer

Grant Sawyer

Sawyer in 1962
21st Governor of Nevada
In office
January 5, 1959  January 2, 1967
Lieutenant Rex Bell
Maude Frazier
Paul Laxalt
Preceded by Charles H. Russell
Succeeded by Paul Laxalt
Personal details
Born Frank Grant Sawyer
(1918-12-14)December 14, 1918
Twin Falls, Idaho, U.S.
Died February 19, 1996(1996-02-19) (aged 77)
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Resting place Palm Memorial Park
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Bette Norene Hoge (1946–1996, his death)
Alma mater Linfield College
George Washington University Law School
Georgetown University
University of Nevada, Reno
Profession Attorney and politician
Religion Baptist

Frank Grant Sawyer (December 14, 1918 – February 19, 1996) was an American politician. He was the 21st Governor of Nevada from 1959 to 1967. He was a member of the Democratic Party.[1]

Early life

Sawyer was born on December 14, 1918, in Twin Falls, Idaho. He was the son of two osteopaths, Harry William and Bula Belle Cameron Sawyer. Sawyer's father was also a state legislator in Nevada.[2]

Sawyer served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He married Bette Norene Hoge on August 1, 1946.[3]


Sawyer attended Linfield College for two years and later enrolled at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he graduated in 1941. While a student at Nevada, Sawyer was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity.[4] Sawyer then went to The George Washington University Law School but left to enlist in the army at the beginning of World War II. After his military service he enrolled at Georgetown University, where he received a law degree in 1946.[5]

Political career

He served as District Attorney for Elko County, Nevada from 1950 to 1958. Sawyer served as the Governor of Nevada from 1959 to 1967. He was defeated in his attempt at a third term by Paul Laxalt.

Governor Sawyer worked to push through civil rights policies and legislation, a difficult process in a state that had been accused of being "the Mississippi of the West."[6]

He was responsible for the development of the modern casino regulatory system with the passage of the Gaming Control Act of 1959 and the formation of the Nevada Gaming Commission. Sawyer swam against the tide of history when he unsuccessfully fought to prevent corporate ownership over Nevada casinos.

Sawyer was the first western governor to endorse the fledgling presidential campaign of Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Commentators have reflected on Sawyer's career as follows: Grant Sawyer served two turbulent terms as Nevada's governor from 1959 to 1967. Sawyer was an advocate of progressive change. By the late fifties he had come so far from his start in the conservative political machine of Senator Patrick McCarran that many powerful Nevadans considered his policies on education, the environment, and civil rights to be dangerously radical. When he demanded meaningful regulatory control over casino gaming and took decisive action to purge the industry of its mob connections, the establishment's resistance stiffened. Eventually, Sawyer's positions brought him into open conflict with special interests and led to a collision with the justice department of the federal government, but he never backed down.

Later years

In 1967, Sawyer co-founded Lionel Sawyer & Collins. For many years, this was the largest private law firm in Nevada. The firm ceased operations on December 31, 2014.[7]

Sawyer died on February 19, 1996, in Las Vegas, Nevada of complications of a debilitating stroke suffered in 1993, at the age of 77.[8] His wife Bette, a native of Baker City, Oregon, died on September 11, 2002, at the age of 79. They are both interred at the Palm Memorial Park in Las Vegas, Nevada.


The following facilities are named for the former governor:


In the pilot episode of the television series Vegas, set in 1960, reference is made to the murder of "the governor's niece" named "Samantha Meade." Sawyer's name, however, is not specifically mentioned.


  1. "Nevada Governor Grant Sawyer". National Governors Association. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  2. "Nevada's First Ladies: Bette Norene (Hoge) Sawyer (1923 – 2002)". University of Nevada, Reno. Retrieved July 4, 2015.
  3. Sawyer, Grant (1993). Hang tough! Grant Sawyer, an activist in the governor's mansion. Reno: University of Nevada Oral History Program. p. 256. ISBN 1-56475-366-2.
  4. Artemesia Yearbook. Reno, Nevada: University of Nevada. 1941. p. 77.
  5. Myles, Myrtle Tate (1972). Nevada's governors: From territorial days to the present, 1861-1971. Western Printing & Publishing Co. p. 310.
  6. Rocha, Guy. "Myth #105 - The Mississippi of the West". Nevada State Library and Archives. Retrieved 16 June 2011.
  8. "Former governor Grant Sawyer, 77, dies". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
Political offices
Preceded by
Charles H. Russell
Governor of Nevada
January 5, 1959 – January 2, 1967
Succeeded by
Paul Laxalt
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