Paul Laxalt’s Reagan Years: Campaigns, Elections and the Road to the White House

Often referred to by media as “the First Friend,” Nevada’s United States Senator Paul Laxalt’s friendship and working relationship with President Ronald Reagan was well known in its day. UNRS-P2015-12-00278While much has been written about Reagan, few sources relating to Laxalt’s work overseeing Reagan’s presidential campaigns have been available to researchers.

The Reagan materials found in the extensive Paul Laxalt U.S. Senatorial Papers, housed in Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries, are now open for use. This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Nevada State Library and Archives. Available online is the collection’s guide and a selection of documents and photographs which were digitized.

This portion of the Paul Laxalt U.S. Senatorial Papers covers the years 1975-1987 when Laxalt was Reagan’s national chairman for his presidential campaigns in 1976, 1980 and his reelection campaign in 1984. The election materials fill a void in depicting Reagan and Laxalt’s close friendship. They are comprised of correspondence, reports, scrapbooks, audio/visual resources and photographs, which provide a wealth of information for researchers.

Senator Paul Laxalt talks with Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office

Senator Paul Laxalt talks with Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office

Paul Laxalt, a longtime Republican public figure in Nevada, became a notable and highly visible player on the national political stage. The son of Basque immigrants, Laxalt rose through Nevada’s political ranks to governor before becoming the first Basque-American ever elected to the U.S. Senate (1974-1987). His tenure was marked by a dedication to conservative politics and his friendship with Ronald Reagan.

“We are very grateful to have received the grant from the Nevada State Library and Archives which allowed us to hire a project archivist to organize and prepare these important historical political materials for use,” Jacquelyn Sundstrand, Special Collection’s manuscripts and archives librarian who oversaw the processing work for the collection, said. “We know that the Laxalt-Reagan friendship was extremely important to both men as well as to the state of Nevada within the American political scene. These materials compliment and expand our knowledge about what is already known concerning both Paul Laxalt and President Reagan’s legacies.”

To access the Paul Laxalt-Ronald Reagan manuscript collection guide and for the selected digitized collection, visit

For additional information concerning the Paul Laxalt and Ronald Reagan materials at the University, please contact Special Collections via email,, call 775-682-5665, or visit