Denver S. Dickerson

Denver S. Dickerson
Denver S. Dickerson
Warden of Nevada State Prison
In office
December 23, 1923 – November 28, 1925
Governor James G. Scrugham
Preceded by Rufus B. Henrichs
Succeeded by Matthew R. Penrose
In office
March 10, 1913 – December 5, 1916
Governor Tasker Oddie
Emmet D. Boyle
Preceded by George W. Cowing
Succeeded by Rufus B. Henrichs
Superintendent of Federal Prisons
In office
January 1920 – April 2, 1921
President Woodrow Wilson
Preceded by Francis H. Duehay
Succeeded by Heber Herbert Votaw
11th Governor of Nevada
In office
May 22, 1908 – January 2, 1911
Lieutenant None
Preceded by John Sparks
Succeeded by Tasker Oddie
13th Lieutenant Governor of Nevada
In office
January 1907 – May 22, 1908
Governor John Sparks
Preceded by Lemuel Allen
Succeeded by Gilbert C. Ross
Personal details
Born January 24, 1872(1872-01-24)
Millville, California, U.S.
Died November 28, 1925(1925-11-28) (aged 53)
Carson City, Nevada, U.S.
Resting place Lone Mountain Cemetery
Carson City, Nevada, U.S.
39°10′38″N 119°45′39″W / 39.17722°N 119.76083°W / 39.17722; -119.76083
Political party SilverDemocratic
Spouse(s) Una L. Reilly Dickerson
Children Harvey, Norinne, June, Donald, Denver, Belford, Barbara, George
Profession Publisher
Religion Christianity
Parents Harvey Franklin Dickerson
Catherine M. Bailey
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1898–1899
Rank 1SGT-GI.jpg First Sergeant
Unit 2nd Volunteer Cavalry
Battles/wars Spanish American War

Denver Sylvester Dickerson (January 24, 1872 – November 28, 1925) was an American politician. He was the 11th Governor of Nevada from 1908 to 1911. A member of the SilverDemocratic coalition party,[1] he had previously held office as the 13th Lieutenant Governor of Nevada from 1907 to 1908. During his governorship, Dickerson worked to reform the state prison system.[2]

After leaving office, Dickerson became the Superintendent of Federal Prisons, predecessor to the present-day Federal Bureau of Prisons. He was the warden of Nevada State Prison until his death in 1925.[2]



Dickerson was born on January 24, 1872 to Harvey and Catherine Dickerson in Millville in Shasta County, California, where he was raised as a Christian.[3] His father was a mining pioneer in California.[4] Dickerson received a public school education and was later privately tutored.[4] Dickerson pursued mining in California, Idaho, and Montana.[5]

During the Spanish American War in 1898, Dickerson was deployed as Sergeant of Troop D of the 2nd U.S. Volunteer Cavalry. Upon returning from his tour of duty as First Sergeant in 1899,[4] Dickerson moved to White Pine County, Nevada.[5]

Settlement in Nevada

Una Reilly Dickerson

In 1902, Dickerson was elected to his first office, the clerk of White Pine County and later became county recorder.[5] On April 23, 1904, Dickerson married Una Reilly of Hamilton, Nevada.[6] On November 24, 1904, Dickerson and Charles A. Walker acquired the White Pine News. By October 19, 1905, Dickerson was the editor and sole proprietor.[7]

State politics

In 1906, Dickerson decided to run for Lieutenant Governor of Nevada.[7] While attending the Democratic State Convention in Reno as a young delegate, he discovered that no one was interested in running for the office.[8] In May of that year, he handed over control of the White Pine News to Houlden Hudgins and sold it in the fall.[7] On October 11, 1906, Dickerson founded the Ely Mining Expositor as a weekly paper representing the interests of the Silver-Democratic political coalition. Dickerson won the November election and took office in January 1907. The Ely Mining Expositor was helmed by various editors while Dickerson was in office and moved to daily publication by May 15, 1907.[9]

When fellow Silver-Democrat and Governor John Sparks died in office on May 22, 1908, Dickerson became the acting governor.[2] The Dickersons became the first family to move into the Nevada Governor's Mansion, recently completed at a cost of $22,700.[10] On September 2, 1909, Una gave birth to June, the only child to be born in the mansion.[6] During his gubernatorial tenure, Dickerson worked to restructure state mental hospitals and reform the state prison system. He also found support to reorganize the state railroad commission.[2]

The "Fight of the Century"

Dickerson resisted pressure to cancel the interracial boxing match between James J. Jeffries and Jack Johnson.

In 1910, former undefeated boxing champion James J. Jeffries sought to reclaim the heavyweight championship as the "great white hope" from African-American Jack Johnson.[11] Dickerson was impressed by Johnson's boxing skills and pledged to provide an opportunity for a match in Nevada without racial prejudice.[12] Despite national pressure against staging the event, Dickerson allowed it to proceed in Reno.[13] Promoter Tex Rickard received a demand from Dickerson that the fight not be fixed.[14] On July 4, 1910, Johnson defeated Jeffries,[11] causing a wave of unrest across the country.[15] In November 1910, Dickerson was defeated in his bid for a second term and left office on January 2, 1911.[2]

Later work

After leaving the governor's office, Dickerson was appointed superintendent of the Nevada State Police.[16] In 1913, Dickerson was appointed the Warden of Nevada State Prison in Carson City to replace George W. Cowing,[17] who had problems finding men willing to form a firing squad to execute convicted murderer Andriza Mircovich.[18] The death sentence was eventually carried out by a custom-built shooting machine.[17]

Dickerson took office as the Superintendent of Federal Prisons in January 1920 under U.S. President Woodrow Wilson.[19] In September 1920, Jack Johnson was sent to the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas for incarceration while under Dickerson's administration.[20] Dickerson worked to have Johnson paroled against unsubstantiated charges.[21] Dickerson resigned on April 2, 1921,[22] when newly elected President Warren G. Harding announced that he would appoint his brother-in-law Heber Herbert Votaw to the office.[23]

In December 1923, Dickerson returned to Nevada State Prison.[2] He supervised the execution of Gee Jon in February 1924, the first to be carried out by gas chamber in the United States.[24] Dickerson remained warden until his death in November 1925.[2]


June Dickerson was the only child born in the Nevada Governor's Mansion.

Dickerson was buried at Lone Mountain Cemetery in Carson City.[2] Afterwards, his wife Una became a librarian at the Law Library in Reno, Nevada. She later retired in Reno and died on April 9, 1950.[6] Una was buried next to her husband, but her ghost reportedly haunts the governor's mansion.[25]

The Dickersons had eight children:[26] Harvey, Norinne, June, Donald, Denver, Belford, Barbara and George.[3] Their sons Harvey, Denver, and George followed their father's footsteps into Nevada state politics. Harvey Dickerson became the Attorney General of Nevada in 1955 and unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1958.[27] The younger Denver Dickerson would go on to become the Speaker of the Nevada Assembly in 1943 and was appointed Secretary of Guam in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy.[28] George M. Dickerson was elected District Attorney of Clark County, Nevada in 1954 and President of the State Bar of Nevada in 1973.[29][30]

Other offices and affiliations

  • 32nd degree Freemason[26]
  • Chairman of the Nevada Board of Education
  • Nevada Board of Prison Commissioners and Insane Asylum
  • President, Blaine Gold Mining and Milling Company
  • President, Robinson Mining Company
  • President, White Pine County Abstract and Guarantee Company
  • Sagebrush Club (Carson City, Nevada)
  • University Club (Ely, Nevada)[4]

See also


  1. ^ Ferguson, Margaret Robertson (2006). The Executive Branch of State Government: People, Process, and Politics. ABC-CLIO. p. 329. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Nevada Governor Denver Sylvester Dickerson". National Governors Association. Retrieved November 3, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Sobel, Robert; Raimo, John (1978). Biographical directory of the governors of the United States, 1789-1978. Meckler Books. p. 927. Retrieved November 18, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d Who's who in the World, 1912. The International Who's Who Publishing Company. 1911. p. 378. Retrieved November 12, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c Beatty, Bessie (1907). Who's who in Nevada: Brief sketches of men who are making history in the Sagebrush state. Home Printing Company. p. 37. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c "Nevada's First Ladies". Nevada State Library and Archives. 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c Lingenfelter, Richard E.; Gash, Karen Rix (1984). The Newspapers of Nevada: A History and Bibliography, 1854-1979. University of Nevada Press. p. 70. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  8. ^ Glass, Mary Ellen; Glass, Al (1983). Touring Nevada: A Historic and Scenic Guide. University of Nevada Press. p. 13. Retrieved November 20, 2010. 
  9. ^ Lingenfelter; et. al. (1984). The Newspapers of Nevada. p. 72. 
  10. ^ Ballew, Susan J.; Dolan, L. Trent (2010). Early Carson City. Arcadia Publishing. p. 60. Retrieved November 20, 2010. 
  11. ^ a b Orbach, Barak Y. (2010). "The Johnson-Jeffries Fight and Censorship of Black Supremacy". NYU Journal of Law & Liberty 8: 270. SSRN 1563863. 
  12. ^ Ward, Geoffrey C. (2006). Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. Random House. p. 197. Retrieved November 15, 2010. 
  13. ^ Roberts, Randy (1985). Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes. Simon and Schuster. p. 96. Retrieved November 15, 2010. 
  14. ^ Borrowman, Shane (May 2010). Celebrating Jack Johnson. Retrieved November 16, 2010. 
  15. ^ Ward (2006). Unforgivable Blackness. p. 218. 
  16. ^ "Denver Sylvester Dickerson 1908-1910". Nevada State Library and Archives. 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  17. ^ a b Cafferata, Patty (June 2010). "Capital Punishment Nevada Style". Nevada Lawyer (State Bar of Nevada). Retrieved November 8, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Want Five Men To Shoot Slayer". The Day (New London, Connecticut). August 12, 1912.,4286437&dq=nevada+prison+warden. Retrieved November 9, 2010. 
  19. ^ Boardman, Irving (January 10, 1920). Bender's Lawyers' Diary and Directory. M. Bender & Company. p. 1. Retrieved November 12, 2010. 
  20. ^ Ward (2006). Unforgivable Blackness. p. 405. 
  21. ^ Ward (2006). Unforgivable Blackness. p. 414. 
  22. ^ "Place to Harding's Brother-in-Law.". The New York Times. April 3, 1921. Retrieved November 12, 2010. 
  23. ^ "A Penological Appointment.". The New York Times. April 4, 1921. Retrieved November 12, 2010. 
  24. ^ Christianson, Scott (2010). Fatal Airs: The Deadly History and Apocalyptic Future of Lethal Gases That Threaten Our World. ABC-CLIO. pp. 49–51. Retrieved November 3, 2010. 
  25. ^ "Lone Mountain Cemetery, Selected Historical Sites". Carson City, Nevada. February 20, 2009. Retrieved November 15, 2010. 
  26. ^ a b White, James Terry (1967). The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. University Microfilms. p. 220. Retrieved November 12, 2010. 
  27. ^ "Index to Politicians: Dickerson". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved November 11, 2010. 
  28. ^ Sharp; Sharp, James Roger (1997). American legislative leaders in the West, 1911-1994. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 100. Retrieved November 12, 2010. 
  29. ^ Barker, Julie Ann (May 2002). "1954 General Election Results". Election Department of Clark County. Retrieved November 12, 2010. 
  30. ^ "Past Bar Presidents". State Bar of Nevad. January 1, 2003. Retrieved November 12, 2010. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
John Sparks
Governor of Nevada
Succeeded by
Tasker Oddie
Preceded by
Lemuel Allen
Lieutenant Governor of Nevada
Succeeded by
Gilbert C. Ross

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