Close up of Nevada Writers Hall of Fame medal

Robert Laxalt

1988 Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Inductee


The son of Basque immigrants, referred to the Nevada State Library in Carson City as his second home during his childhood. He studied Basque culture in France and Spain as a Fulbright scholar and eventually, in fulfillment of that childhood prophecy, earned a reputation as a writer's writer. In his early career as a journalist, he wrote for the Nevada Appeal, Nevada State Journal, and was a staff correspondent for United Press International. He launched the Capital News Service in 1947. He was the Nevada correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and the Nevada political correspondent for the New York Times. He also sold nonfiction articles and short stories to leading national magazines. He was a revered teacher and the voice of the Basque immigrants in America.

The non-fiction classic about his father, Sweet Promised Land (1957), was followed by In a Hundred Graves (1972), and Nevada: A History (1977). The novella, A Cup of Tea in Pamplona (1985), was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. The trilogy, The Basque Hotel (1989), Child of the Holy Ghost (1992), and The Governor's Mansion (1994), continued the saga of Laxalt's Basque heritage.

In 1954, Laxalt joined the staff of the University of Nevada, Reno, as the director of News and Publications. He helped found the University of Nevada Press and served as its director from 1961-1983. He was Writer-in-Residence at the university during the mid-1970s. He was also a co-founder of the Center for Basque Studies at the University of Nevada, Reno.

In 1986, he was awarded the Tambor de Oro from the City of San Sebastian for his contributions to the Basque people and their country. In 1988, Laxalt became the first person named to the Distinguished Nevada Author Chair at the university. His seminars attracted diverse students from the university and the community. "Take your writing seriously," Laxalt advised students, "but don't take yourselves too seriously." At his retirement, he was designated Director Emeritus of the University of Nevada Press. In 1996, UNR Journalism Professor Travis Linn interviewed Laxalt for a segment of PBS Channel 5's Nevada Experience. In 1998, Texas Christian University included Laxalt in their Literary Chronology of the American West (1510-1984). He died in Reno on March 23, 2001.