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R O B E R T   L A X A L T  A Writer's Life



Royal portable typewriterThumbnail photo of Laxalt family


Robert Laxalt was born on Sept. 25, 1923, in Alturas, California, to Dominique and Theresa Laxalt, immigrants from the Basque provinces of the French Pyrenees. His father was a sheepherder, and his mother operated a boarding house after their move to Carson City, Nevada. He was the second of six children. His older brother Paul became a well-known politician, serving as both Governor and United States Senator.

Robert was educated in Carson City, graduating from Carson City High School in 1941. He attended Santa Clara University until entering the U. S. Consular Service during World War II (1943-1945). After the war he became a student at the University of Nevada, Reno, graduating with a B.A. in English, French, and Philosophy in 1947.

Thumbnail photo of Robert and Joyce Laxalt

Laxalt married Joyce Nielsen in 1949 and they had three children: Bruce, Monique, and Kristin. He worked as a newspaper reporter during college and after graduation. He started the Capital News Service, Nevada's first wire service, to cover Nevada politics, and was a staff correspondent for United Press International, the Nevada correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, and the Nevada political correspondent for the New York Times.

Thumbnail photo of Robert Laxalt in his home officeWhile working as a reporter, Laxalt began writing short stories and magazine articles, selling his first in1948. He wrote over two hundred articles and short stories, including several for National Geographic Magazine. Laxalt was working on his first novel by 1952 and eventually published sixteen books, both novels and non-fiction. All of his books are based on Nevada, his Basque heritage, or the Basque country. Three of his works were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and he won several other literary awards.

Thumbnail photo of Robert Laxalt teaching

Laxalt became the Director of News and Publications for the University of Nevada, Reno, in 1954. In 1960, he began to organize what would become the University of Nevada Press, serving as its first director from 1961-1983. He retired as director of the University of Nevada Press in 1983 but continued to teach in the Journalism Department. He was the second Writer in Residence at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 1988, Laxalt became the first person named to the Distinguished Nevada Author Chair at the university. He was highly praised for his teaching, which he enjoyed.

Thumbnail photo of Robert Laxalt at the Basque Sheepherder monument dedicationRobert Laxalt studied Basque culture in Spain and France as a Fulbright scholar, was instrumental in organizing the Western Basque Festival in the United States, and helped establish the Basque Studies Program at the University of Nevada, Reno. He spearheaded a drive to raise funds for a National Monument to the Basque Sheepherder of the American West, located in Rancho San Rafael Park in Reno. In 1986, he was awarded the Tambor de Oro from the City of San Sebastian, Spain, for his contributions to the Basque people's culture and homeland.

Robert Laxalt died in Reno, Nevada, on March 23, 2001. In Laxalt's honor, the Nevada State Library and Archives in Carson City was dedicated as Nevada's first Literary Landmark on Nevada Day, October 31, 2003. The Literary Landmarks Register is a program of Friends of Libraries USA. The first annual Robert Laxalt Distinguished Writer's Program was held at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno in February 2004.

                                                    -- From the guide to the Robert Laxalt Papers in Special Collections).




University LibrariesUniversity of Nevada, Reno • Contact Donnelyn Curtis • Updated 3 September, 2014