Cliff Young 1922-2016

Cliff Young 1922-2016

Born in Lovelock and graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, Clarence Clifton Young served as both a state and federal legislator during pivotal years in Nevada history. His career was often a paradox.

Following World War II service in the Army in Europe and Harvard Law, Young became public administrator of Washoe County, then was elected to the U.S. House in 1952 over Democratic incumbent Walter Baring. He was reelected in 1954.

One of his supporters, Les Gray, compared Baring’s voting record to that of U.S. Rep. Vito Marcantonio of New York, a democratic socialist. It was a common red-baiting technique used on Democrats in those days.

In the late 1950s and early ’60s, Young was a member of the All American Society, a Nevada group founded by Harolds Club general manager Raymond I. Smith to combat “creeping communism.”

On the other hand, Young was a critic of Nevada’s McCarthyite U.S. Sen. George Malone, also a Republican.

When Young and his wife Jane arrived in D.C. in Jan. 1953, they were looking for a place to live when their car containing all their belongings was stolen, a fix that landed them on the CBS evening news.

In 1954, Young of Nevada called for tougher regulation of the state’s mob-ridden casinos because the gambling industry “contains the seeds for its own destruction.”

The Nevadan became acquainted with Vice President Richard Nixon in D.C. and later served as Nevada chair of his presidential campaigns.

Young announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 1956 when Democratic incumbent Alan Bible announced his retirement. Then Senate Democratic leader Lyndon Johnson intervened, prevailing on Bible to re-enter the race. In a state that valued seniority, Bible was reelected. Johnson came to the state to campaign for Bible, belittling Young in the Democratic stronghold of Ely as “Little Boy Blue” and “this little phony named Young.”

Following his defeat, there were rumors Young was in line for a federal appointment, but he had not enjoyed D.C. and returned to Nevada. Ten years later, he reentered politics, winning a Nevada Senate seat representing Washoe County from 1966 to 1980. He became known as one of the most eloquent speakers in the legislature and as a supporter of the environment. In 1970, after an Oklahoma firm laid claim to 400,000 acres of Nevada land for a token filing fee, Young called it the latest evidence of the need for reform of the U.S. Mining Law of 1872.

Young voted for the Equal Rights Amendment, and joined with several other Republicans—Coe Swobe, Archie Pozzi and James Slattery—to support more liberal marijuana laws.

In 1981-83, he served as national president of a leading environmental group, the National Wildlife Federation, battling the Reagan administration’s interior secretary, James Watt.

In 1984, during a period of turbulence on the Nevada Supreme Court, Young was elected to the court and served for 18 years. He was particularly noted for trying to speed up death sentence appeals.

Young was the founder, in 1988, of the Nevada Judicial Historical Society. He attended Burning Man in 2004 at age 81.