During his years of attending the University of Nevada, Reno and serving the state’s residents as governor and U.S. senator, Richard Bryan never lost track of his friends or roots.
Richard Bryan attended Thursday night’s Sawyer-Bryan Democrat Dinner as the Churchill County Central Democrat Committee changed the name of its annual event from the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner to that of Sawyer-Bryan to honor two iconic leaders of the state.
Bryan said he was flattered to have the dinner named after him and the late Sawyer, a governor who served from 1959-1976. Sawyer’s father lived in Fallon and practiced medicine.
Yet, Bryan reminisced about the Fallon ties he made in the late 1950s when he attended the University of Nevada and belonged to the Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity house.
“My roommates… all three were from Fallon. The house manger was from Fallon. There were more Fallon students at the University of Nevada that there were from Las Vegas,” Bryan recollected.
Bryan said he has traveled to Fallon numerous times, whether as an ATO to complete a community project or as an elected official to attend a parade, graduation or a pancake breakfast. He acknowledged Don Travis, retired principal of Churchill County High School and a former president of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada and his wife Simmie, and Roger Bremner.
He said Travis married his college sweetheart who belonged to the Tri-Delta (Delta Delta Delta) sorority.
“We had three ATO presidents in a row who married Tri Delts,” Bryan said with a grin.
Bryan’s fondness for anything Fallon shifted to the annual Kiwanis pancake breakfast that is held before the Labor Day parade. As an elected official, Bryan never missed a Labor Day event in Fallon. Bryan was first elected as governor in 1982 and served six years before his election to the U.S. Senate in 1988 for two terms. He told Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto, who attended Thursday’s dinner as the keynote speaker, about the breakfast.
“The best pancake breakfast in the state — far none and not for the Hearts of Gold cantaloupes — are pancakes served with hot butter,” he said.
Additionally, Bryan also made extra trips to the valley because his sister taught school in Fallon for several years.
Bryan talked about his life in public service and how Sawyer was first elected governor at the age of 39 in November 1958. He said Sawyer laid the framework for the Nevada Gaming Control Commission in the late 1950s and received help from Churchill County legislator Carl Dodge. In 1960, Sawyer became the first western governor to support John F. Kennedy, who was campaigning for president.
“He was a progressive, a truly extraordinary person,” Bryan said of Sawyer.
Both Bryan and Masto served at different times as attorneys general, and the former governor and senator was complimentary of her campaign. Once she is elected, Bryan said, she will continue a Fallon legacy that includes Alan Bible, a former U.S. Senator from Nevada who attended school in Fallon and graduated from Churchill County High School.
“Come back and visit the good people of Churchill County and remember Alan Bible, a legacy like Grant Sawyer,” he said.
Although the general election is more than six months away, Bryan had advice for Masto as she crisscrosses the state seeking to become the state’s newest U.S. senator.
“It all begins in a place like this,” said Bryan, “in Fallon, on a night in April early in the campaign process.”