Phillip Earl 1937-2019

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid once said, “Phillip Earl’s love for Nevada and the rich history [of] the state is on display every week during the school year,” referring to Earl’s frequent talks to students in both county schools and college.

Earl was a historian and staff member of the Nevada Historical Society. He was most familiar to Nevadans through his “This Was Nevada” column that ran in state newspapers from 1975 until Earl’s retirement in 1999. The column was one more way Earl educated Nevadans on their state. The columns were collected in two books published in 1986 and 2000. He also assisted in the creation of Nevada in the West magazine.

Earl was the best source of information on a wide variety of events and developments in state history, such as the filming of the silent movie The Winning of Barbara Worth, the flu epidemic of 1918, the impact in the state of various wars, county seat fights, boxing. He was a regular source, both before and after his retirement, for reporters, teachers and school districts, community leaders and children. He spoke to service clubs, classes, political groups and anyone who asked.

He and his wife Jean threw attention on an art that few people knew existed—carvings on tree trunks in the Sierra by Basque settlers. The couple developed a method of pulling images of the carvings from the trees. They also published an art book, Basque Aspen Art of the Sierra Nevada, in 2011.

Earl grew up in Boulder City, attended Nevada Southern University in Las Vegas and the University of Nevada in Reno, and taught school in Reno. He died on Jan. 8, and a memorial gathering is planned at the Nevada Historical Society on Jan. 26 at 1:30 p.m.