Distinguished Nevadan George Hawes dies at age 97
Distinguished Nevadan George Holbrook Hawes, politician, businessman and educator, died early Tuesday at Evergreen Healthcare Center in Carson City. He would have been 98 on May 10.
Former Gov. Mike O’Callaghan knew Hawes for more than 30 years.
“He was always a gentlemen that came from the old school,” he said. “He dealt with his heart as well as his head. He was a bright guy.”
Hawes’ son David who lives in Fort Collins, Colo., called his father’s death on Tuesday a symbolic rebirth and a mark of the man.
“He died on my birthday. It’s a special day for our family because five years ago, my youngest son had open heart surgery and this day marks a second birth for him,” he said. “My dad knew all of this and felt this was a fitting time to go. I agree.”
The son of a country lawyer, Hawes first showed his political mettle at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, when he organized funding and launched the first chapter of the Boys and Girls Club of Waterville, according to a memoir written by his son, George Hawes.
He was an educator when he first moved to Elko and then Ely in the late 1940s, a place he called home for about 23 years, according to long-time Ely resident Gentty Etcheverry.
Other jobs over the years have included working in a canning factory, a hay ranch, an aircraft plant and as a gandy dancer for the Union Pacific Railroad.
“I liked his forthrightness. He told it the way it was. He was very upright, sincere, learned, astute.” Etcheverry said. “After he left Ely he just kept going, serving on a number of different boards and commissions. That says something.”
A Republican in a staunchly Democratic town, Hawes became White Pine County’s Nevada state assemblyman in 1950 and again in 1952. During that period, he earned the support of the union and orchestrated a historic visit from Nevada native Pat Nixon, at that time the wife of vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon.
Hawes introduced legislation to establish rest stops and state parks along Nevada’s highways. He helped establish cooperative game management areas involving land owners in the Department of Fish and Game’s management process and his amendment to the Nevada Constitution changed the office of superintendent of public instruction from an elective position to an appointed one based on training and experience.
In 1954, he ran for Nevada lieutenant governor, finishing third in the Republican primary. He also served as sergeant-at-arms in the state Senate during his long career.
“George embodied that people wish they saw in politics today,” said Secretary of State Dean Heller.
“He cared about people tremendously and he had such a long career in Nevada,” said long-time friend Edie Grubb. “He was a normal kinda guy. He enjoyed life.”
Hawes left the Republican party after a rift following his third bid for the Assembly in Ely in 1958.
He moved to Carson City and retired a Democrat. In the 1950s he pursued a master’s degree in political science at the University of Nevada, Reno, then served 10 years in the American Association of Retired Persons’ employment service in Las Vegas. He retired a second time, once again moving to Carson City. In 1988, he ran for and was elected to the Carson-Tahoe Hospital Board of Trustees, holding that position until 1998, the year he turned 94.
He was a member of the Rotary Club, the Elks Club, the Leisure Hour Club and the Democratic Central Committee.
“George was so involved in the community,” said Pat Potter, who served as a Carson-Tahoe trustee with Hawes. “If he ran into a situation he thought important, he would throw himself into it.”
Born in Skowhegan, Maine, May 10, 1904, Hawes was the son of William Holbrook Hawes and Eldena Josephine Smith Hawes. He graduated from Skowhegan High School in 1923, then attended Colby College in Maine and Hobart College in New York. He completed his bachelor’s degree in education from Rutgers University in New Jersey and a degree in political science from the the University of Nevada, Reno.
He married Helen Hopping in 1930 and following the birth of their sons George Hawes Jr. and David, the pair divorced. George remained in Nevada with his father and David returned to New Jersey with his mother.
Hawes is preceded in death by his son, George, who died Sept. 20, 2000.