Richard H. Bryan U. S. Senatorial Papers

Identifier: 2003-01

Scope and Contents

The Richard H. Bryan U.S. Senatorial Papers span the dates of 1989-2001, representing the two terms of his career as a Democratic U. S. Senator from the State of Nevada. The personal papers of Senator Bryan consist of 170 cubic feet of records generated and received by his Washington, D. C. and Nevada offices. The collection is open with no restrictions.

The collection consists of materials in various formats from Senator Bryan's U. S. Senate career, beginning in the 101st Congress through the end of the 106th Congress. There are limitations, however, in that most of the items that form the bulk of the collection come from the Senator's second term, from the 104th Congress through the 106th Congress (1995-2001). In most cases, the original file headings were maintained.

Senator Bryan's records are divided into two main series: Series 1 are the Washington, D. C. files, and Series 2 are the files kept in the Senator's three offices in Nevada. Many of the same types of records are found in both groups because of the close working relationship between the Washington, D. C. and State offices. The records within the two groups are divided into five Subgroups: (1) Legislative; (2) Constituent; (3) Personal, Political, and Official; (4) Press Relations and Media Activities; and (5) Office. Within each of the Subgroups, there are further Series based on either the topics of the material, or the source of the record. For example, in the Washington, D. C. office files, Senator Bryan's Legislative Subgroup is broken down into four Series: "Subjects" (representing the larger legislative issue or Senate Committee responsibility); "Nevada Related" (focus primarily on legislation affecting Nevada); "Yucca Mountain/Nuclear Waste;" and "Voting Record/Briefing Books."

Senator Bryan served on numerous and diverse committees and subcommittees during his two terms in the Senate. The files from the Washington, D. C. office correspond to the Senator’s role as a member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee (1989-2001); Commerce Science and Transportation Committee (1989-2001); Joint Economic Committee (1989-1994); Select Committee on Ethics (1995-1996); Select Committee on Intelligence (1993-2001); Armed Services Committee (1995-1996); and Finance Committee (1997-2001) along with their various subcommittees. In addition, the records include aspects of Bryan's role in the national politics of the Democratic Party. For example, the Senator served as member of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from 1989 to 1992.

Group 2 consists of records from Senator Bryan’s state offices (Las Vegas, Reno, and Carson City). Their organization and arrangement is similar to that of Senator's Washington, D. C. office, with the same Subgroups and Series. These files in particular indicate the importance that Senator Bryan placed in maintaining a close relationship with his Nevada constituents. The Nevada office files record the interests and concerns of the people of Nevada, and the Senator’s efforts to represent those issues in Washington, D. C. For example, the records from state offices include information about the Senator’s annual "Rural Tour" and the numerous "Town Hall Meetings" he conducted during his career. This portion of the collection also contains the records from Senator Bryan's two senatorial campaigns in 1989 and 1994.

Senator Bryan's career corresponded to the tremendous population growth that occurred in Nevada during the last decade of the Twentieth Century. His activities in the Senate mirrored the concerns of that growing demographic. In particular were Senator Bryan's leading efforts to halt the construction and further development of the nation's nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. The collection also reveals how national issues intersect with state and local interests. This is particularly evident in Bryan's annual "Rural Tour," where he would tour Nevada to discuss and listen to local concerns and discuss congressional legislative activities.


  • 1971-2002
  • Majority of material found within 1989-2001


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Biographical Note

In one of the last interviews that Senator Richard H. Bryan gave before retiring from the United States Senate he stated, "I knew I wanted to go into politics from an early age, ever since grammar school." Indeed, his career has certainly lived up to that youthful desire, but more importantly, Bryan's Senate career climaxed thirty-six years of public service to the people and State of Nevada. He has the distinction of being the first Nevadan to serve in the State Assembly and Senate, as Attorney General, Governor, and U. S. Senator.

Born in Washington, D. C. on July 16, 1937, Bryan's family moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, two years later. The son of Oscar W. Bryan, a Deputy District Attorney, and Lillie P. Bryan, a Deputy County Clerk, Richard Bryan perhaps had the attributes of public service instilled in him at an early age. At John S. Park Elementary School in Las Vegas, he garnered recognition as President of the graduating class and named the Outstanding Boy Graduate by the school's faculty. While attending Las Vegas High School (1951-1955), Bryan was both Sophomore and Senior Class President. He was also the first recipient of the Robert S. Dula Award, selected as a representative to Nevada Boys' State, was a member and officer of the Order of DeMolay, and named "Boy of the Month" by the Las Vegas Exchange Club.

Bryan attended the University of Nevada, Reno, from 1955 to 1959 where he was the Associated Students Men's Senator-at-Large (1957-1958) and Student Body President (1958-1959). He was also active in many student organizations such as belonging to Alpha Tau Omega, working on the Student Union Board, and being the Sports Editor for the university's yearbook, Artemisia.

After graduating from the university, Bryan spent one year in the military as a Second Lieutenant in the Adjunct General Corps from 1959 to 1960. After leaving the Army, he enrolled at the University of California, Hastings College of Law where he graduated with honors in 1963. While attending Hastings College of Law, Bryan married Bonnie Fairchild on September 1, 1962. During their marriage, Richard and Bonnie Bryan had three children: Richard, Jr. in 1964; Leslie in 1965; and Blair in 1967.

After graduating from law school, Bryan followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming an Assistant District Attorney for Clark County, Nevada in 1964. It was there where he received valuable experience in law enforcement. He further distinguished himself in 1966 when he was named Clark County's first Public Defender, a position he held until 1968.

Richard Bryan's meteoric rise in Nevada politics began in 1968 with his election to the Nevada State Assembly as a Democrat representing the city of Las Vegas. In 1972, Bryan continued to work his way up in state politics with election to the State Senate, where he served until 1978. Bryan's early work in law enforcement provided the background for his first attempt at running for a statewide office in a 1974 race for Attorney General. He, however, lost that election to Republican Robert List by 701 votes. Nevertheless, in 1978, Nevadans elected Bryan as Attorney General, and he served as the State's chief law enforcement officer until 1983. The veteran prosecutor and lawmaker was elected by the people of Nevada as Governor in 1982, defeating the incumbent Governor Robert List. He was re-elected in 1986 by a substantial margin garnering 72% of the popular vote.

As Governor, Bryan developed a reputation as a fiscal conservative by restoring financial stability and confidence to Nevada's state government, balancing all six of the state budgets he presented to the State Legislature. His reorganization of the state economic development program led to the relocation of many businesses to Nevada. During Bryan's administration, the state’s population grew exponentially, and Nevada's economy experienced phenomenal growth resulting in a nearly 50% increase in jobs. Bryan also dramatically improved state support of Nevada's education system. Richard Bryan followed up his impressive 1984 gubernatorial victory with a dramatic electoral victory in 1988 over a Republican incumbent for a seat in the United States Senate.

Re-elected in 1994, Richard Bryan's two terms in the United States Senate are marked by his determination to serve both Nevada and the nation. Bryan was the only senator to simultaneously serve on three U. S. Senate Committees. These multiple committee memberships allowed Bryan to be involved in a vast array of legislative matters.

Richard Bryan's career in the United States Senate reflected his concern to protect the rights of American consumers. His positions on both the Senate Commerce and Banking Committees provided Bryan with the perfect vehicle to focus on legislation designed to protect consumers. Among his most notable accomplishments are the 1993 law to require air bags in every new car sold in the U. S., the 1995 Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Bryan also introduced bills to increase automobile gas mileage and decrease America's dependence on foreign oil.

Senator Bryan believed that one of the top priorities of Congress was balancing the federal budget. His career demonstrated this fiscal conservatism by fighting to cut unnecessary government programs. Bryan voted to end NASA's program to contact aliens in space, the Superconducting Super Collider, and an agricultural program that provided large American corporations and foreign companies with federal subsidies to advertise their products overseas. He was also an original sponsor of a Constitutional Amendment to require a balanced budget.

Perhaps Senator Bryan's most lasting legacy is in his determination to work in the Senate on behalf of the people of Nevada. As a U. S. Senator for the fastest growing state in the Union, both Bryan and Nevadans faced difficult period. Bryan sought to protect the rights of his constituents, while also lessening the influence of the federal government in his state. He strenuously supported and defended Nevada's Gaming Industry, especially ensuring that the National Gambling Impact Study Commission operated in full public view. Bryan insisted that Nevada Gaming not face unfair competition and worked to reform the Indian Gaming Act, which he believed provided the virtually unregulated and untaxed Indian gaming operations a distinct advantage. He also sought out ways to open untapped markets for tourism by encouraging accessible, dependable travel options for potential gaming tourists to the state.

Bryan was instrumental in protecting Nevada's natural resources and helped to establish 14 wilderness areas as well as national recreation or conservation areas such as Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Spring Mountain National Recreation Area in southern Nevada. He was also a staunch advocate for state and local control of Nevada's natural resources to diminish the influence of the federal government. Bryan succeeded in passing the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act that reformed the controversial land exchange process to give local governments a greater say in development decisions. He sought to help make Nevada a leader in the field of alternate energy sources by establishing the Corporation for Solar Technology and Renewable Resources (CSTARR) to develop and market solar energy and other renewable energy technologies.

Since 1982 when he was Governor, Bryan led the opposition to the federal government's plans to locate a permanent high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain. As Senator, he successfully halted a plan of making Nevada an "interim storage" site for nuclear waste at the Nevada Test Site. Bryan’s strong leadership on the nuclear waste issue in the U. S. Senate resulted in President Bill Clinton vetoing all bills designed to send nuclear waste to Nevada.

Senator Bryan's commitment to the people and the State of Nevada won him the admiration and respect of both Nevada Democrats and Republicans. He was known throughout the state as one of the most accessible public officials. His numerous Town Hall Meetings and annual Rural Tours helped him to develop a close relationship with his constituents that appeared rare in modern American politics.

After retiring from the Senate, Richard Bryan moved back to his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2001, he joined the Nevada law firm of Lionel Sawyer & Collins as a member of the Firm's Executive Committee, focusing on government relations at the federal, state and local levels in the areas of mining and public land use. Also in 2001, Bryan lent his extensive political experience to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as an adjunct professor in Political Science.


207.563 Linear Feet (219 boxes)

Language of Materials



Richard Hudson Bryan is an American attorney and politician who served as a United States Senator from Nevada from 1989-2001. A Democrat, Bryan served as the 25th Governor of Nevada from 1983-1989, and before that served as the state's attorney general and a member of the State Senate. The collection contains material covering Richard Bryan's campaign for and career in the U.S. Senate, 1989-2001, following his time as Nevada's governor. The bulk of the papers come from his second term in the 104th-106th Congress (1995-2001). Papers include legislative subject files, correspondence, reports, hearings, speeches, press releases, newspaper clippings, photographs, audio and visual records, and ephemera.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Washington, D.C. Office; 2) Nevada State Offices; 3) Video, Audio, and Photographic Records

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Senator Richard H. Bryan in 2001.

Separated Materials

Photographs transferred to the Special Collections Department photo archive as collection number UNRS-P2012-17.


Guide to the Richard H. Bryan U. S. Senatorial Papers
Andrew Gahan, Jessica Maddox, and Jacquelyn Sundstrand
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)