James Bilbray dies; the former Nevada congressman was 83 years old

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Former Nevada Democratic congressman James Bilbray has died aged 83, officials said on Sunday.

“Today Nevada has lost a giant,” Governor Steve Sisolak wrote on Twitter. “Jim Bilbray was a good friend, whom I respected and loved. Through his years of public service at the Silver State, I know his legacy will live on. The First Lady and I join her friends, family and friends. loved ones grieving during this difficult time. ”

Nevada senators also took to Twitter to offer their condolences.

“Devastated to learn of the passing of Jim Bilbray,” wrote US Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. “Jim was a childhood friend of my father and has always been a warm presence in our lives. He was a tireless advocate for Nevada and a proud father and grandfather. He will be sadly missed by the entire Cortez family.

US Senator Jacky Rosen tweeted: “Rep. Jim Bilbray was a Nevada treasure. His tireless commitment and dedication to public service was unmatched, and we will honor his legacy forever. My heart goes out to his family and friends during this difficult time. “

“Tireless champion for UNLV”

Bilbray was born in Las Vegas on May 19, 1938. He graduated from Las Vegas High School and later became the chairman of the student body at UNLV, although he received his bachelor’s degree from American University in Washington, DC He went on to found and was the first president of the UNLV Alumni Association, according to his biography published on the website of the law firm Kaempfer Crowell, where he was an advisor.

UNLV President Keith Whitfield offered his condolences on Twitter.

“Jim was a tireless champion of the UNLV and Southern Nevada, as the first president @UNLVAlumni,” he wrote. “He embodied the true spirit of being a rebel! Our hearts go out to his wife, family and loved ones. “

Bilbray also served in the Nevada Army National Guard and the Army Reserve.

Bilbray received his law degree from Washington College of Law in 1964 and was called to the Nevada State Bar the following year.

He was regent of the Nevada university system from 1968 to 1972. That year he first ran for Congress, winning a competitive Democratic primary but losing in the general election. In 1980, Bilbray was elected to the Nevada State Senate, where he served until 1986 when he was elected to Congress for the 1st District of Nevada, replacing Harry Reid, who had been elected. in the US Senate.

Bilbray served four terms in Congress, but was defeated for re-election in a close race in 1994 by veterinarian John Ensign, who was elected to power as part of the Newt Gingrich-Contract with America wave.

Bilbray also served on the Board of Governors of the U.S. Postal Service and the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, which decided the fate of potentially unnecessary military bases across the country.

Two of Bilbray’s daughters followed him into politics: Erin Bilbray ran for Congress in the 3rd Congressional District in 2014, but lost in a heavily Republican year despite support from prominent figures, including then-vice president Joe Biden. Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod was elected to the Nevada assembly in 2016 and served three terms. A cousin, Brian Bilbray, was a Republican congressman from California.

“I love Vegas”

Bilbray has an elementary school in northwest Las Vegas named in his honor, and his daughter Bridget Bilbray-Phillips was its first principal.

“It’s good because the kids really love that I’m there,” he told the Review-Journal in 2011. “I’ve seen the growth, seen the kids grow, and now we’re going to dinner. and we’re going to make the children say, ‘You are Mr. Bilbray.’ ”

Congresswoman Dina Titus, who now represents the district where Bilbray served, posted a photo of them together from this year, where she recognized her efforts to preserve habitats, including the National Conservation Area of Red Rock Canyon.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my friend, former Congressman James Bilbray. He was a respected public servant and a dedicated environmentalist, ”Titus wrote on Twitter. “Earlier this year, I honored his work by dedicating a plaque at the entrance to the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Center.”

MP Brittney Miller, D-Las Vegas, also shared on Twitter: “We have lost a state treasure with the passing of Congressman James Bilbray, a much respected and beloved constituent of our Assembly District. 5. Sending prayers for his amazing wife and 3 daughters including my friend / fellow Assembly member (Shannon Bilbray-Axlerod) and all those who mourn him.

Bilbray has been married to his wife, Michaelene, for over 60 years. He said in 2011 that his roots in Nevada would be permanent.

“I was born here, I was raised here and I will die here,” he said. “I love Vegas and will always stay here.

Contact Jonah Dylan at [email protected] To follow @TheJonahDylan on Twitter. Review-Journal Politics and Government Editor-in-Chief Steve Sebelius contributed to this story.


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