Obituary: Cameron McVicar Batjer
June 3, 2011
The Honorable Cameron McVicar Batjer, former Chief Justice of the Nevada Supreme Court, passed away on June 1, 2011.
Justice Batjer was born on the McVicar cattle ranch in Smith Valley on Aug. 24, 1919. His mother’s pioneering family came to Smith Valley from Ontario, Canada in the early 1860s. His father, Robert Wilhelm Batjer, came to Nevada in the 1890s from Oldenburg, Germany. Robert settled in Smith Valley where he was a cattle rancher and established a trucking company that delivered dry goods along the eastern scarp to the Sierras from Reno to Bodie. In 1916, Robert married Mary Belle McVicar, a graduate of the University of Nevada and a Smith Valley school teacher.
Justice Batjer began school in Smith Valley in September 1925. In later years he said, “I liked school from the first day, and learning was a continuing great experience.”
Like so many families, the Batjers fell on difficult times in the 1930s. His sister, Helene, became gravely ill, and when his father died suddenly, the family fell behind on their taxes and had to sell the Batjer homestead to clear the debts. Mabel moved Cameron and his two sisters to Weeks so she could teach at the one-room school at Fort Churchill. In 1933, Cameron returned to the McVicar Ranch in Smith Valley to attend high school. He graduated in 1937 and enrolled at the University of Nevada, where he majored in economics and history. While at the university, he was a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, Sagers, the Commerce Club, and the debate team.
Following graduation in 1941, he anticipated being drafted into the Army but was rejected because he was too thin. He then secured a teaching position in Dayton where he met and married fellow teacher Lura Gamble, who had been raised on a ranch in Hazen and had graduated from the University of Nevada in 1937. They were married May 16, 1942.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Justice Batjer enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He was assigned to the Construction Battalion (Sea Bees) in the third Marine Division in the Pacific Theater. While serving on Guadalcanal, he received a commission. Upon completing Japanese language school, he was assigned to General Douglas MacArthur’s staff in Brisbane, Australia.
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Justice Batjer was separated from the Navy in December 1945, after which he returned to Nevada. He resumed his teaching career in McGill. In 1947, he was hired as the football and basketball coach for Fernley High School. While teaching in Fernley, he decided to attend law school at the University of Utah.
In 1950, he graduated from the University of Utah Law School, was admitted to the Utah Bar, and was named chief counsel of the Utah State Senate. In 1951, Nevada Senator George “Molly” Malone asked Cameron to join his staff in Washington, D.C., as his chief counsel.
He and the family returned to Carson City in 1953. Needing to reestablish Nevada residency in order to practice law, he taught 7th and 8th grades for a year in Carson City. He established a private law practice in 1954 and was subsequently named Ormsby County District Attorney succeeding Paul Laxalt.
When the Nevada Supreme Court was expanded to five members in 1967, Gov. Paul Laxalt appointed Cameron to the court. He retired from the court in 1981 to accept an appointment by President Ronald Reagan as chairman of the United States Parole Commission.
During his lifetime Justice Batjer received numerous awards for outstanding service and achievement, including, University of Nevada Alumni Association Alumnus of the Year Award; United States Parole Commission Ben Baer Award for Outstanding Leadership; University of Utah Law School Order of the Coif; Phil Harris Award for Outstanding Service, Rotary International; and Washoe County Bar Association Lifetime Achievement Award, Justice Batjer has been a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Carson City for more than 60 years.
Justice Batjer retired in 1991, and he and Lura commenced a much-earned retirement in Nevada and Maui, Hawaii.
He was delighted that he lived to see the year 2000 and to watch the University of Nevada beat Cal in football in 2010!
Justice Batjer is survived by three daughters and a son-in-law: Lura Batjer Caldwell, Charles S. Caldwell, Christina Batjer, and Marybel Batjer as well as eight nieces and nephews.
The Batjer family gives special thanks to Amber Jacinto for her three years of service, care and love for Cameron, along with that of her sister Sabrina Akhtar and their family.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Walton’s Sierra Chapel. A memorial service will be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, please contribute to the Justice Cameron M. Batjer Scholarship Fund at the National Judicial College, University of Nevada Reno, Judicial College Building, MS-358, Reno, Nevada 89557.