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Cannon, Howard W.


Howard Walter Cannon was born on January 26, 1912 in St. George, Utah to Walter and Leah Sullivan Cannon. He grew up on a ranch in southwest Utah and graduated from Dixie Junior College in St. George. Cannon also attended Arizona State Teachers College in Flagstaff, Arizona where he received his bachelor's degree in 1933. The following year he enrolled at the University of Arizona where he earned a law degree in 1937. Cannon returned to St. George, passed the state bar examination, and established a law practice. He became active in local politics and was elected Washington County Attorney in 1940. While practicing law, Cannon joined the Utah National Guard and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. In 1941, he was first assigned to the combat engineers before being transferred to the Army Air Corps. In the Army Air Corps, Cannon trained as a pilot for gliders, light aircraft, and C-47 transports. He went to Great Britain in 1944 as part of the 440th troop carrier group, and on September 17, 1944, Cannon flew the lead aircraft for the first wave of paratroopers dropped in Arnhem, Netherlands during the Allied advance into Holland. While returning from the mission, his plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire and he and six crew members bailed out over Holland. Aided by the Dutch resistance, the men spent forty-two days behind enemy lines avoiding capture before reaching Allied lines. Cannon continued to fly combat support missions until the European campaign ended in May 1945. For his service during World War II, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, and the French Croix de Guerre with a Silver Star. Discharged in 1946 with the rank of major, Cannon joined the Air Force Reserve and remained active until he retired in 1972 with the rank of major general.

In December 1945, Cannon married Dorothy Pace, and the couple moved to Las Vegas, Nevada where their son, Alan, and their daughter, Nancy, were born. In 1949, Cannon passed the Nevada bar examination, began a Nevada law practice, and was elected City Attorney, serving four consecutive terms. He was involved in city development issues including the expansion of Nevada power facilities and protection of private companies from water district encroachment. He was active in local civic groups and served as president of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce in 1955. In 1956, Cannon entered state politics, challenging and losing to U.S. Representative Walter S. Baring in the Democratic primary. Two years later, encouraged by fellow Democrats Grant Sawyer, candidate for governor, and Roger Foley, candidate for attorney general, Cannon sought national office again when he ran for the Senate, challenging and defeating Republican incumbent George "Molley" Malone. Cannon won re-elections in 1964, 1970, and 1976. During his twenty-four years in the Senate, Cannon was instrumental in the passage of hundreds of bills which brought federal benefits to Nevada. Among these bills were the National Tourism Policy Act, the Federal Payments In-Lieu-Of-Taxes Act, and funding to expand Nellis Air Force Base and the Nevada Test Site. As a member of the Democratic party, which controlled Congress from 1960 to 1980, Cannon strongly supported the Great Society programs and the War on Poverty. He frequently sponsored aviation-related legislation such as the Airport and Airways Development Act of 1970 and the space shuttle program. Cannon also chaired the Armed Services Committee and the Aeronautics and Space Committee. In political reform, Cannon supported the Fair Campaign Practices Act of 1971, and chaired the Senate committee that established the rules and procedures for the possible impeachment of President Richard Nixon preceding the Watergate scandal.

Howard W. Cannon died in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 6, 2002.


Clark County Department of Aviation. "Howard W. Cannon." Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame.

Titus, Costandina A. Battle Born: Federal-State Conflict in Nevada During the Twentieth Century. Dubuque, Iowa: Kentall/Hunt Publishing, 1989.

Gilbertson, John. “Plane Politics: Lyndon Johnson, Howard Cannon, and Nevada’s 1964 Senatorial Election." Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, Winter 2003. Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame.

"Howard W. Cannon." Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame. 2019. Accessed July 16, 2019. "Nevada's Legendary senator Howard Cannon laid to rest." Las Vegas Sun, March 12, 2002.

Vernetti, Michael. Senator Howard Canon of Nevada: A Biography. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 2008.