Jackalyn Laxalt
Photo Credit:
Courtesy Neena Laxalt

JACKALYN (ROSS) LAXALT (1927 – 2004)
*4th First Lady born in Nevada (Carson City)
Governor Paul D. Laxalt (1967 – 1970)

The information below has been compiled from a variety of sources. If the reader has access to information that can be documented and that will correct or add to this woman’s biographical information, please contact the Nevada Women’s History Project.

At A Glance:

Born: 31 Jan 1927 (Yerington NV)
Died: July 2004 (Reno NV)
Burial: Reno, NV
Maiden Name: Jackalyn Margaret “Jackie” Ross
Race/Nationality/Ethnic Background: Caucasian
Married: 23 June 1946 (Carson City, NV)
Children: John Paul, Shelia, Gail, Michelle, Kevin, Marie, Kathleen
Primary City and County of Residence and Work:
Carson City NV, Scotsdale AZ, Reno, NV
Major Fields of Work: First Lady, Drug and Alcoholism Counselor
Other Role Identities: Wife, Mother
Obituary: Reno Gazette-Journal (Reno, Nevada) p. 4C:5

FORMER Nevada first lady Jackalyn Ross Laxalt dies

Jackalyn Ross Laxalt, longtime substance abuse counselor and former wife of Paul Laxalt, who served as a Nevada U.S. senator, governor, and lieutenant governor, died Saturday. She was 77.

Jackalyn Laxalt died in a Reno hospital where she had been undergoing treatment for respiratory problems.

Laxalt was born in Yerington and raised in Carson City, where her father, John R. Ross, was a prominent lawyer and later a federal judge, and attended the University of Nevada, Reno.

After Paul Laxalt married Jackalyn, he practiced law with her father and began his storied political career as one of the state’s most popular elected officials by winning his first statewide race, for lieutenant governor, in 1962.

As the state’s first lady from 1966 to 1970, Laxalt oversaw the refurbished and remodeling of the Governor’s Mansion.  With their six children, the Laxalts were the largest family to occupy the mansion.

After her marriage of 25 years ended in divorce in 1972, she moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., where she overcame her alcoholism and then spent many years in Arizona and Nevada counseling others with substance abuse problems, her family said.

“mom loved her children, grandchildren and Nevada, and she was proud of having been Nevada’s favorite first lady,” said daughter Michelle Laxalt, of Washington, D.C.

“My mother taught all of her children to be independent, to not roll over and lose if we thought we were right. She taught us to be warm and loving, and gave us our sense of humor,” said daughter Neena Laxalt of Reno.

And while Paul Laxalt has often pointed to his Basque heritage, Neena Laxalt added her Irish-decent mother encouraged her children “to be proud that we were Irish.”

Besides Michelle and Neena, other survivors include daughters Gail Johnson of Denver, Sheila Lokan of Portland, Orel, and Kevin Laxalt of Greely, Colo; son John Laxalt of Carson City, a dozen grandchildren and one great-granddaughter, and brother John Tom Ross of Carson City.

Funeral arrangements are pending.


  • “Well known Carson Couple Wed at Afternoon Church Rite.” Reno Evening Gazette 28 June 1946:14. Print.
  • “The Wives of State Officials Speak: Some Have Already Fitted into Pattern, Others Seek Place.” Reno Evening Gazette 12 Jan. 1963:2. Print.
  • “First Ladies prepare for Centennial.” Reno Evening Gazette 7 Oct. 1964:14. Print.
  • “She sets ‘em up.” Reno Evening Gazette 22 April 1966:12. Print.
  • “Nevada’s next First Lady.” Nevada State Journal [Reno] 1 Jan. 1967:16. Print.
  • “Inaugural Ball involves all the Laxalts.” Nevada State Journal [Reno] 1 Jan. 1967:18. Print.
  • “Prominent ladies of ball gowns.” Nevada Appeal [Carson City] 5 Jan. 1967:6. Print.
  • “In Carson City-Candid glimpses of a new housewife in an old mansion.” Nevada State Journal [Reno] 8 Jan. 1967:23. Print.
  • “Nevada Legislators go to a Basque party.” Nevada State Journal [Reno] 1 Mar. 1967:9. Print.
  • “Governor’s Mansion aglow with decorations.” Nevada State Journal [Reno] 21 Dec. 1969:28. Print.
  • Myles, Myrtle Tate. “Paul Dominique Laxalt.” Nevada’s Governors: From Territorial Days to the Present, 1860-1971. Sparks, NV: Western Printing & Publishing Company, 1972. 130-132. Print.
  • “Former first lady fights against alcohol.” Nevada State Journal [Reno] 15 Oct5. 1981:1. Print.
  • “Ex-first lady to help others battle alcoholism.” Nevada State Journal [Reno] 23 Oct. 1981:18. Print.
  • “Governor’s Kids roll call.” Reno Evening Gazette 2 Nov 1997, sec B:2. Print.
  • “Elegant Tea Party honors First Ladies. “Las Vegas Review Journal 27 Oct. 1999, sec. E: 7. Print.
  • Powers, Lenita. “All the Governor’s Wives: Jackie Laxalt.“ Nevada State Journal [Reno] 30 Nov. 1981: 27-28. Print.
  • “Jackalyn Ross Laxalt, Former First Lady, dies.” Nevada Appeal [Carson City] 18 July 2004, sec. A: 4. Print.
  • “Jackalyn R. Laxalt.” Mason Valley News [Yerington] 23 July 2004, sec. A: 3. Print.
  • History of the Governor’s Mansion and the Nevada State Capitol. 1991, p. 33.
  • Nylen, Robert A., and Guy Louis Rocha. “Jackalyn (Ross) Laxalt.” State of Nevada: The Historical Governor’s Mansion. Carson City, Nevada: Dema Guinn, the Nevada Commission on Tourism, Nevada Magazine, and the Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs, 2005.43. Print.
  • Harpster, Jack. “Son of a Basque Sheepherder: Governor Paul Laxalt.” 100 Years in the Nevada Governor’s Mansion Las Vegas, NV: Stephens Press, LLC, 2009.152-165. Print.