John W. "Jack" Diehl Oral History

Dublin Core


John W. "Jack" Diehl Oral History


John "Jack" Diehl Oral History


Churchill County Museum Association


Churchill County Museum Association


May 11, 1993


Analog Cassette Tape, Txt File, MP3 Audio



Oral History Item Type Metadata


Marion LaVoy


John W. "Jack" Diehl


4325 Schurz Highway Fallon, Nevada




an interview with


May 11, 1993

This interview was conducted by Marian LaVoy; transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norma Morgan; proofed by Norine Arciniega, final by Pat Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myri Nygren, Director of Oral History Project/Assistant Curator Churchill County Museum.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.


A gentle man whose destiny has been filled with momentous challenges describes Jack Diehl, but the one word that best portrays the man is . . . COURAGEOUS.

The trials that have been placed upon him would overcome a "Ulysses," but in his quiet unassuming way, Jack has always prevailed. The loss of an eye as a toddler; his close ties to his family and his "standing-by" his father; his years in an orphanage, have given him an inner strength found in few men. His outstanding mind and his firm determination to succeed led him to the field of law. It was Fallon's good fortune to have him set up his practice here. Concern for his clients who faced unjust treatment from the hands of family members or others is legendary . . . countless widows or divorcees have been rescued from financial despair by Jack's astute mind. When other members of the bar have been scathingly referred to as criminals, Jack's name has remained unsullied. He has often been referred to as the most "honest" lawyer in the community by those who have required his legal expertise.

Community involvement has been addressed by Jack and he has served judiciously in elected and appointed positions within the city and county as well as civic organizations. He was one of those involved in bringing Fallon its small golf course.

On the state level he has served as a member of the Nevada State Gaming Commission and was president of the Nevada State Bar Association. Nationally, he is a member of the prestigious American Association of Trial Lawyers.

When Jack chose to retire, the Fallon Community Center was filled with well-wishers, attesting to the high esteem in which he is held. A man who has served both the positions of city attorney and assistant city attorney for thirty-five years--with the exception of a short term as district attorney--deserves the thanks of everyone.

Jack is currently facing his greatest challenge – ill health. His friends and colleagues pray that he will face this challenge as courageously as he has faced his others and may he triumph once again.

Interview with Jack Diehl

LaVOY:  This is Marian Hennen LaVoy of the Churchill County Museum Oral History Program interviewing John William Diehl at my home, 4325 Schurz Highway Fallon, Nevada. The date is May 11, 1993. Good morning, Jack.

DIEHL:   Good morning.

LaVOY:  How are you this morning?

DIEHL:   Fine.

LaVOY:  Good. We'll get started on your interview here. Jack, where were you born?

DIEHL:   San Jose, California.

LaVOY:  And when?

DIEHL:   June 9, 1922.

LaVOY:  And, when did you come to Nevada?

DIEHL:   When I was, oh, four or five years old.

LaVOY:  About 1927?

DIEHL:   Right.

LaVOY:  Good. Tell me, what was your father's name?

DIEHL:   William Carl Diehl, Junior.

LaVOY:  And where was he born?

DIEHL:   Winnemucca, Nevada

LaVOY:  Oh! He was from Winnemucca. How did he happen to be in San Jose?

DIEHL:   My mother's side of the family lived in San Jose, and they really went back and forth from Winnemucca and San Jose depending on how they were getting along.

LaVOY:  Now, what was your mother's name?

DIEHL:   Dorothy Mabel Reed.

LaVOY:  Was she born in San Jose?

DIEHL:   Yes, I'm sure she was. We didn't have too much connection with that side of the family. I'm sure she was born in San Jose.

LaVOY:  How did she and your father meet?

DIEHL:   I really don't know.

LaVOY:  But, you lived in Winnemucca as a family.

DIEHL:   Yes.

LaVOY:  Tell me, you mentioned something about your grandfather in Winnemucca. Would you tell me about that?

DIEHL:   My grandfather had a brewery that was located at 331 East Second Street in Winnemucca, and the operation of the brewery ceased, I think it was 1907 when my grandfather was killed while in the process of loading and taking beer into the community.

LaVOY:  What was the name of the brewery, do you recall?

DIEHL:   I think it was just John Diehl Brewery.

LaVOY:  Did somebody buy the brewery then after he died?

DIEHL:   I don't think so. I think it just went by the wayside.

LaVOY:  Oh, I see. Well, what did your father do in Winnemucca?

DIEHL:   Everything, really. Laborer, salesman, what have you. Kind of a jack of all trades.

LaVOY:  Now, you went to school in Winnemucca. Is that correct?

DIEHL:   Correct.

LaVOY:  Through approximately what grades?

DIEHL:   Kindergarten until the fourth grade at which time my sisters and I were committed to the Nevada State Orphans' Home [Carson City, Nevada].

LaVOY:  Oh, I didn't realize that. What was the reason for this?

DIEHL:   My father, as I indicated, was a kind of the jack-of-all trades and he was also an alcoholic, and we were living in Winnemucca. Actually, my grandmother was taking care of us. She had a stroke and could no longer carry out that function, and, as a result, I guess we were considered as indigent minors and were committed to the state orphans' home.

LaVOY:  Now, I surmise that your mother had left by that time?

DIEHL:   My mother and father were divorced, and it was a rather stormy marriage anyway, but they were divorced. I don't know the date. He was granted custody of the four children. As I indicated, he was unable to take care of the children largely because of his problems with alcohol, and, so, we were, as I say, committed to the home.

LaVOY:  Now you mentioned there were four children. Would you give me their names, please?

DIEHL:   Marjorie [Diehl Connors], Lucille [Diehl Cronin], William Carl [Diehl], Junior, whom we call Bud, and myself.

LaVOY:  Now, did all four of you go to the orphans' home?

DIEHL:   No. My brother was in a Shrine Hospital for crippled children for quite some time, and so, he wasn't, of course, in the home.

LaVOY:  Did he have a birth defect? Is that the reason for it?

DIEHL:   He had osteomyelitis of the bone in one of the legs.

LaVOY:  Oh, I see. Well, who was in charge of the children's home when you were taken there?

DIEHL:   At that time, I think it was L. G. Clark and his wife. I can't remember her first name.

LaVOY:  That must have been very traumatic for you, Jack. How many years were you there?

DIEHL:   I was there a little over five years.

LaVOY:  And where did you attend school at that point in time?

DIEHL:   We attended school in Carson City public schools.

LaVOY:  Tell me a little bit about life in the children's home there.

DIEHL:   Normally – well, I shouldn’t say normally – it seems that with the change of administration and the politics of it--there was a new superintendent . . . a spoiled superintendent, boys would call him, and a matron for the girls. The Clarks were nice people, but, they, of course, were not experienced in this type of work, and it's understandable. Each child had chores to do in the morning, making beds, mopping the floors. We had a small farm at the Coleman. The boys, particularly the older boys, operated the farm, and the girls generally took care of the kitchen.

LaVOY:  What recreation did you have?

DIEHL:   We played kind of a sandlot operation. We played a little baseball, football, and basketball, normally with children on the outside.

LaVOY:  Were these closely supervised, or did some of the children get hurt playing these games?

DIEHL:   We weren't supervised, no. If we decided to play a game of baseball, we could. The kids could go ahead and do that.

LaVOY:  Did you receive any injuries there?

DIEHL:   I broke my leg. It was improperly set, and they had to break it again. That’s about it.

LaVOY:  Now, after you were old enough to leave the orphanage, where did you go to school?

DIEHL:   I stayed for a very short while in Carson City. Incidentally, we were anxious to get out of the Home as most kids were, and my father, with all of his problems, still stuck around. He generally tried to be employed where we were.

LaVOY:  I believe you mentioned to me that you went to junior high school in Reno.

DIEHL:   That is correct.

LaVOY:  How did you happen to come from Carson to Reno to go to school?

DIEHL:   Well, we prevailed upon my father to make arrangements to get us out of the Home which he did, representing that an aunt of mine [Hilda Dedman] in Weiser, Idaho, was going to assist him in care of the children. They gave him permission to take us out and with that misrepresentation we were allowed to go out with him.

LaVOY:  And you went for three years?

DIEHL:   Well, no. I went to Northside [Junior High School], actually, for about a semester. Then we moved to Winnemucca, and I attended high school there for the balance of my high school education.

LaVOY:  Then, what year did you graduate from Humboldt County High School?

DIEHL:   I graduated in 1940.

LaVOY:  Then, did you decide that you were going to go on to school?

DIEHL:   Yes, I'd always had that in mind.

LaVOY:  And where did you go?

DIEHL:   To University of Nevada.

LaVOY:  When you came down to the University of Nevada from Winnemucca, where did you live, Jack?

DIEHL:   I lived in Ross-Burke Mortuary.

LaVOY:  Did you really? How did you happen to do that?

DIEHL:   When I was in Winnemucca attending high school, a teacher by the name of Elizabeth Osborne who was later to become the wife of Silas E. Ross who owned the mortuary and she discussed it with Mr. Ross and recommended that I be allowed to stay at the mortuary which I did with two or three other college students.

LaVOY:  Who were the college students?

DIEHL:   A fellow by the name of Mark Wallace and Bill Peccole--he was ahead of me.

LaVOY:  And was Erb Austin there, too, at that time?

DIEHL:   Erb was there at the time. I worked with Erb.

LaVOY:  So there were the four of you, literally, that lived there?

DIEHL:   Yes, but the changeover was rather noticeable.

LaVOY:  Did you belong to any organizations at the University?

DIEHL:   I was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Again through the assistance of Mr. Ross, I was a member of Coffin and Keys.

LaVOY:  Now, tell me, did you go out on calls?

DIEHL:   Yes.

LaVOY:  When Mr. Ross would get a call, you would get the ambulance or the hearse.

DIEHL:   Generally, there were three or four morticians, and they had a schedule worked up where there'd be so many on duty at all times, twenty-four hours a day.

LaVOY:  Have you kept in touch with these other three men?

DIEHL:   Oh, I think two or three of them are deceased. No, I didn't keep in touch with them.

LaVOY:  I believe that Mr. Peccole is the gentleman that is building a huge building for the University of Nevada in Las Vegas right now, or a field or something, isn't he?

DIEHL:   Well, he's the one that is responsible for construction of the baseball field at the University.

LaVOY:  Oh!

DIEHL:   In fact, it bears his name, Peccole Field.

LaVOY:  Oh, that's very interesting. Now, what were some of the classes that you particularly liked at the University?

DIEHL:   Oh, that would really be hard to say. Of course, all those speech classes and English classes.

LaVOY:  You mentioned to me once before that you had studied French. Who was your French teacher at the University?

DIEHL:   Dr. . . .   I can't recall a name.

LaVOY:  I wondered if it might have been Mrs. Thiette [Henriette] Osgood. She taught French there for quite some time.

DIEHL:   No, this was an elderly gentleman who was the department head.

LaVOY:  I can't think of his name myself right at the moment, but you were evidently very good at French.

DIEHL:   Well, not all that good. I worked hard at it. I felt fortunate to get through it.

LaVOY:  Now, you were at the University for how long before the war [World War II] broke out?

DIEHL:   I was elected junior class manager at the end of my sophomore year, and the War broke out about the same time.

LaVOY:  Had you been in the ROTC?

DIEHL:   No, I'm blind in one eye, and far as I know, ineligible.

LaVOY:  In other words, you didn't have to be drafted.

DIEHL:   I was drafted.

LaVOY:  Oh, you were drafted.

DIEHL:   I was told that I wouldn't be because of my disability but the amusing part is I went down and bought a lot of clothes. About a month later I was drafted.

LaVOY:  (laughing) You mentioned you'd lost the sight in an eye. How did that happen, Jack?

DIEHL:   When I was about three years old I dropped a milk bottle and the glass blew up and hit my eye.

LaVOY:  This was in Winnemucca.

DIEHL:   No, this was in Sparks.   (laughing)

LaVOY:  Oh, well, you have dashed around this country.

DIEHL:   I don't know how long we lived in Sparks because I just vaguely remember. I couldn't have been more than three years old.

LaVOY:  But, it was the splinter from a milk bottle. My goodness gracious. Well, getting back to the draft, this would probably by this time be 1944, is that correct?

DIEHL:   1942. I started in 1941.

LaVOY:  So this would be 1942 when you were elected as class manager and then ended up getting drafted. Well, where did the Army send you then?

DIEHL:   I was processed through Fort Douglas, Utah and then I went from Fort Douglas, Utah, to Camp Robinson, Arkansas. From Camp Robinson, Arkansas, a group of us was sent out to Tyler, Texas. They opened up a new camp called Camp Fannin. Grant Sawyer was in the same unit, but he was accepted in Officer's Candidate School for the Quartermaster Corps, so he left Camp Fannin after not long.

LaVOY: What was your rating?

DIEHL: I was discharged as a staff sergeant.

LaVOY: Wonderful. Now, after you left Camp Fannin, where did you go?

DIEHL: Went to Fort Hood, Texas, and from a camp in Maryland. From there we infantry training at Camp Maxey in then we were transferred. Fort Hood, Texas, to went to advanced Paris, Texas, and in southern France,We were from there to . . .

LaVOY: Did you land in southern France?

DIEHL: No, we were at port of debarkation.

LaVOY: In what town in France?

DIEHL: A short distance out of Marseille.

LaVOY: Now, what branch of the service in the army was that? The quartermaster?


LaVOY: Oh, you said infantry. [doorbell rings and there is a break in the tape] Were you engaged in any battles there in southern France, Jack?


LaVOY: You mentioned to me that you had gone to a language school. Would you tell me something about that and the name of it?

DIEHL: Actually, this took place after the cessation of hostilities in Europe.

LaVOY: Oh, I see. Well, let's wait a minute for that then, and then, after you landed in France, where were you in France, and what were you doing in France?

DIEHL:   Actually, this was the prelude to the Battle of the Bulge, and they were shipping men up to the front like cattle, inexperienced youngsters who'd never cleaned or held a rifle before except maybe in basic training, and, as I say, they were pushing them to front lines. I went into the rotation.

LaVOY:  Did you eventually get up to . . . the Battle of Bulge was near Bastogne [Belgium], wasn't it?

DIEHL:   Yes, it was. I went to Toul, France. From Toul, France, to Angivallier [on Maginot Line]. Before they'd send these troops out, they would go through what we called a reinforcement center where they'd be processed and then sent up and would be assigned to units that needed them. I went through that procedure, and during the process, it was determined that I only had one eye and I shouldn't be where I was. So they pulled me out of the reinforcement center where they were sending the troops and I became involved in the processing. I was distinguished from the processing itself. And then we were sent to extreme northern France. This was after.

LaVOY:  Well, then, when you were in extreme northern France, were you in an area where there was fighting going on?

DIEHL:   Limited, where I was.

LaVOY:  And then shortly before the war ended, how did you happen to be sent down to the French language school?

DIEHL:   As I say, there were a lot of troops that weren't doing much of anything except waiting to go to the South Pacific. This language school came up by reason of an article in the Stars and Stripes, and I figured I'd take a chance. See if I couldn't get in and I made my application. It was accepted, and I attended this school. I ultimately got four college credits for it.

LaVOY:  Do you remember the name of the school?

DIEHL:   Yes. University of Nancy, France.

LaVOY:  Then, when did you return home from Europe?

DIEHL:   April, 1947.

LaVOY:  Did you return right back to the University [of Nevada]?

DIEHL:   I had to wait. Actually, I went to summer school. It was just opening and then a regular semester and then summer school again and finished the two years in one in effect by overloading myself.

LaVOY:  Now, you graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno, in what year?

DIEHL:   1947, if you call if graduating. I didn't appear or anything.

LaVOY:  Who were some of your classmates that graduated with you?

DIEHL:   I really don't know because, as I say, I didn't attend any graduation.

LaVOY:  What made you decide that you wanted to go into the field of law?

DIEHL:   I don't know. It's really something that I'd had in mind since my earlier days and just went in.

LaVOY:  What school did you apply to?

DIEHL:   University of California Hastings College of the Law.

LaVOY:  And you were accepted there?

DIEHL:   Um hum.

LaVOY:  When did you enter?

DIEHL:   It was 1947. Soon as I finished that last quarter of the summer school.

LaVOY:  Well, now, Jack, something that I'm wondering about. When you returned home from France, did you start dating some of your old girlfriends?

DIEHL:   Well, as a matter of fact, most of them were gone.

LaVOY:  They had married and moved on?

DIEHL:   All gone. I met my wife, Elizabeth Carr, who was from the state of New York who had an aunt and uncle in Reno. She decided she wanted to go to school in Nevada as distinguished from going to college in New York.

LaVOY:  When did you meet Elizabeth?

DIEHL:   I met her, probably, right after I was discharged.

LaVOY:  You met her at the University. Where were you married and when?

DIEHL:   We were married in Virginia City [Nevada], June 2, 1947. [August 18, 1948?]

LaVOY:  How did you happen to choose Virginia City as the place to be married?

DIEHL:   My sister had a home there. It was a mecca for running away.

LaVOY:  Oh, I see! Did Elizabeth belong to any sororities?

DIEHL:   Pi Phi.

LaVOY:  She was a Pi [Beta] Phi. Were any of the Pi Phi's in attendance at your wedding?

DIEHL:   No.

LaVOY:  Just the two of you.

DIEHL:   The two of us, my sister, and Mrs. Cobb, Ty Cobb's mother.

LaVOY:  Were the attendants. Do you remember who married you?

DIEHL:   Justice of the Peace.

LaVOY:  You were married, and then you were accepted in San Francisco, so I surmise that you both moved to San Francisco. Where did you live in San Francisco?

DIEHL:   Oh, different places.

LaVOY:  Just different places in the town. Is that where you met your law partner of so many years?

DIEHL:   No, I met Mario Recanzone originally in Winnemucca. He attended school the same time I did although he was a year ahead of me. [End of tape side A] Actually Mario finished college, and then stayed out of school for a year. Worked at the Army Depot at Herlong [California]. We both recognized each other immediately, and we started studying together with two or three other Nevada students with us.

LaVOY:  And who were they?

DIEHL:   Stan Drakulich. Fellow by the name of William R. Morris. He's a very prominent attorney in Las Vegas at the present time.

LaVOY:  Was your daughter born in San Francisco?

DIEHL:   Yes.

LaVOY:  And what's her name?

DIEHL:   Deborah Ann.

LaVOY:  And when was she born in San Francisco?

DIEHL:   She was born July 25, 1950.

LaVOY:  Now, there's a little story that you told me about the doctor that your wife had. Would you repeat that?

DIEHL:   Yes, it was a Doctor Sawyer, Grant Sawyer's brother.

LaVOY:  And what was his name?

DIEHL:   We called him Pete. I think it was Harry.

LaVOY:  How did she happen to go to him? Did you realize he was related?

DIEHL:   In fact, I think it was Elizabeth Osborne [Ross] who had mentioned him to us because they were very dear friends.

LaVOY:  Tell me a little bit about Hastings. Did you enjoy it there, and what were some of your activities?

DIEHL:   There were no activities. We just went there to go to school. Had been in the army for the length of time that I mentioned as were most of the students. Most of them were just ex-GI's who wanted to get in and get started and so there were no activities.

LaVOY:  When did you graduate?

DIEHL:   1950.

LaVOY:  Was there a graduation ceremony?

DIEHL:   I'm sure there was, but we didn't attend that, either.

LaVOY:  Well, shame on you, Jack. (laughing) Then, what made you decide that you and Mario were going into law business together?

DIEHL:   Of course, after three years of studying in law school we were pretty anxious to get started. We didn't know what approach to take so we finally decided to trip around the state of Nevada, excluding Las Vegas.

LaVOY:  Why did you exclude Las Vegas?

DIEHL:   We preferred the small-town living. We were both country boys, so to speak, and for that reason we both had the same thing in mind, and we traveled throughout the state introducing ourselves to lawyers and so on and finally decided to come to Fallon. This was through the urging of Dr. Sawyer--this is Grant Sawyer's father--former governor. In fact, we visited Grant during the tour of the state. He made several suggestions, but he was the one that pushed us toward his father, and his father greeted us with open arms. There were only two other attorneys in Fallon at the time. A. Loring Primeaux and James W. Johnson, Jr. So, the field was open, except it was impressed upon us that Fallon was a difficult town in which to get started and get established, but we took a chance. A very talented attorney, Andrew [A. L.] Haight, had died, I think, a year before, and his office was in the old Palludan Arcade Building. So we went to the bank to find out if the practice was for sale--not the practice, but the tools of the practice. There was a library, typewriters, and so forth, and we bought that for twenty-five hundred dollars. They were real anxious to get rid of it. I think it was about a hundred dollars down and the balance equaled monthly installments of twenty-five dollars, interest at six per cent.

LaVOY:  You've certainly come a long way.

DIEHL:   Well, people have been nice to us.

LaVOY:  Well, I think you've been excellent lawyers. I wanted to ask you. You mentioned there were only two lawyers in town. Had Judge [George] Kenny passed away?

DIEHL:   No, I was going to correct that. There was George Kenny that was a fine, fine gentleman who was not anxious to get into any contested work at all, so he pushed people that came to see him, pushed them to us, and we were just down the hall from him.

LaVOY:  Now, explain something to me. You say that Judge Kenny was not interested in getting any contested work. Exactly what does that mean?

DIEHL:   Well, contested work is any practice where the parties cannot agree between themselves, and that's where you get into court trials and so on. You can't settle your problems so you have to have a judge and jury do it.

LaVOY:  Oh, I see. Well, now, you had not been in town very long when, I believe, you were appointed as city attorney to take Mr. Primeaux's place. Is that correct?

DIEHL:   Yes. That was in 1953.

LaVOY:  Yes, May 5, 1953. He resigned as city attorney, and you took over as city attorney. Now, I notice that Dan Evans was the mayor at that time.

DIEHL:   Right. He was Mike Evans' father.

LaVOY:  What type of a mayor was he? Flamboyant or quiet?

DIEHL:   Anything but quiet. Very outspoken. The ramrod type.

LaVOY:  How did he happen to appoint you?

DIEHL:   I don't know.

LaVOY:  Knew a good man when he saw him.

DIEHL:   Oh, perhaps.

LaVOY:  (laughing) Now, did your practice immediately start getting busy?

DIEHL:   No, it was really difficult to get started which is understandable. People don't know you, and the worry of having someone push themselves into an area that was pretty well taken care of.

LaVOY:  Did you have any particularly interesting cases in the first year that you were city attorney? Anything that you can recall that was of particular interest.

DIEHL:   Not really.

LaVOY:  Who was your first client? Do you remember?

DIEHL:   First client was . . . We were in the process of unpacking our own books and the like, and Mario had to go to Loyalton [California] for something--his sister lived there. While he was gone a gentleman from Fernley came in and wanted a deed, and I didn't know how to prepare a deed,

LaVOY:  (laughing)

DIEHL:   But I took the information from him and ran down the hall to Mr. Kenny, and he told me what we had to do. I called Mario, and I said, "We've got our first client. He wants a deed drafted." He said, "I'm coming down anyway. Why don't you run over to the newspaper office and get some paper. We'll type it up." Which we did. As I said we didn't know what we were doing, but we started going through Mr. Haight's books and papers that we'd bought and found copies of deeds and so on. That was our first client.

LaVOY:  Do you remember his name at all?

DIEHL:   No, I don't.

LaVOY:  He just happened to walk in off the street? That's something. Then, you stayed a city attorney until 1955. I think you were reappointed May 17, 1955. Now, why did you decide that you and Mario would sort of change slots? Why did you decide that?

DIEHL:   I really don't know. Most of the stuff we did was on the flip of a coin.

LaVOY:  Well, I just wondered because I know you remained as assistant city attorney and he became city attorney, and I just wondered whether you enjoyed going to the court room more than he did as trial lawyer or what the situation was.

DIEHL:   Yes, that's part of it. He had problems with our district judge as did most of the attorneys that went before him for the first time. I think he just figured that if he'd undergo the ritual of cannon that it was by force, in effect. Mario disliked the idea of being embarrassed.

LaVOY:  And you didn't mind?

DIEHL:   Oh, I minded, but one of us had to do it.

LaVOY:  So, you took the more difficult road, actually.

DIEHL:   Well, I wouldn't say it was more difficult. It was just something that he liked better.

LaVOY:  Well, now, your law firm became the most prestigious law firm in town. How many years was it before you really started having people accept you and come to you?

DIEHL:   I don't know, but it was a long time. Of course, there were a lot of people that we became acquainted with. They were very gracious and so on, but they didn't need lawyers.

LaVOY:  I have understood from friends of mine that you were just an excellent lawyer in helping women in divorce cases. In fact, your name is held in great esteem by many of the women in this town. What gave you the compassion to help these women?

DIEHL:   Boy, I don't realize . . . I don't know who I was helping.

LaVOY:  Well, they all felt that you were. Was that an inner feeling that . . .

DIEHL:   I really don't know. It could go back to the time when my father and mother were divorced. I don't know. That was a long bitter deal that went over the years. In other words, he kidnapped us. Theoretically, he told my mother that we were kidnapped. They tried to extradite him, but the governor refused to sign the warrants of extradition. That could be something.

LaVOY:  Probably, that is exactly what it is, but you're held in high esteem by these women. Now, you also remained the assistant city attorney for a long, long time, but you were district attorney for a while, too. Now, how did you happen to . . . Did you hold assistant city attorney and district attorney at the same time?

DIEHL:   No. It was just of matter of retaining someone else that could take care of the slack. You needed to have coverage when one was out of town on business or otherwise, and it was just a matter of having the bases covered.

LaVOY:  Well, now, when you were district attorney, who appointed you as district attorney, or did you have to run for that office?

DIEHL:   I ran for office and I lost.

LaVOY:  You were district attorney from 1955 to 1958, and then you ran again? Is that it?

DIEHL:   Yes.

LaVOY:  And by whom were you defeated?

DIEHL:   A fellow by the name of Raymond Free.

LaVOY:  Oh, I see. All right, then, you also became a member of the Nevada State Gaming Commission. Now when was that?

DIEHL:   That was 1968.

LaVOY:  What was involved in being a member of the state gaming commission?

DIEHL:   The gaming commission is in, you might say, two segments. One the investigative arm which is a gaming control board and the chairman who conducts the business of the control board and the investigations. Well, just a general investigative arm, and the gaming commission itself, acts upon the recommendations of the gaming control board. When I say, act upon it, there may be a difference of opinion, and the commission may or may not accept the recommendations. So I was a member of the gaming commission as distinguished from the control board.

LaVOY:  Did you put anybody's name on the black book during the time that you were on the commission?

DIEHL:   I really can't remember. It seems to me that I did.

LaVOY:  I'm trying to think, too, because between 1968 and 1973 it seems to me there was quite an interesting case of someone's name that was put on the black book. Somebody that was involved with Frank Sinatra, as I recall.

DIEHL:   Yes, that would have been before my time. Not much before.

LaVOY:  No, it was in the early seventies, I believe, this happened, and I just wondered if you would have been involved in that.

DIEHL:   Let's see, that was the Olson, a real estate man. It seems to me that yes, I did, but I just can’t remember.

LaVOY:  Did you enjoy being on the gaming commission?

DIEHL:   Yes, I did.

LaVOY:  Now, you served there for approximately five years. Then why did you decide to serve on it no longer?

DIEHL:   Actually, it was becoming too burdensome. I had made the decision when I accepted the position that I shouldn't be representing any gaming clients, even remotely involved in the business. So I made it, not an announced policy, but I just made it so that I would not take any gaming clients as long as I was on the commission. In fact, when I left the commission, I went to Governor [Mike] O'Callaghan and I gave him my recommendation. I didn't take any gaming clients for approximately a year. Then, at that time, I accepted clients although I wasn't particularly interested in that sort of business at the time.

LaVOY:  Who replaced you on the commission, do you recall?

DIEHL:   Pete Echeverria.

LaVOY:  Now, actually, you were city attorney from 1953 through 1955, and then you were assistant city attorney from 1958 through 1988, I believe. You resigned December 20, 1988. Why did you resign? Were you no longer practicing at that point in time?

DIEHL:   I was always practicing up until the time I just finally quit which was in 1989. Well, again, I think I just needed a change. It was demanding. We had that Howard Hughes deal.

LaVOY:  Now, what is the Howard Hughes' deal?

DIEHL:   Oh, just whether or not he should be licensed. Not for anything immoral, but his refusal to cooperate with us, the commission and control board. I didn't act on it. I'd just say, summing it real fast, I was just tired.

LaVOY:  Now, you're speaking about the gaming commission.

DIEHL:   Right.

LaVOY:  I didn't realize that that point of time is when the Hughes thing was coming up. No, what I was referring to is that you had been assistant city attorney for so terribly long, and finally you just decided to hang it up and I just wondered why you had . . .

DIEHL:   No, no, there's no connection at all in that regard. When I finally resigned in 1989, I had problems with my health and it was embarrassing to me to try to appear in court which I couldn't do. It just was not fair to the client.

LaVOY:  Well, you had been active for so many, many years it must have been very difficult for you to have ill health.

DIEHL:   It was.

LaVOY:  Take your abilities away from you, you know, to the way that you would like to have them. You didn't lose your abilities. I don't mean to imply that, but it was difficult for you to get up and speak in front of people and all that. Now something else that I wanted to ask you. Did you and Mario take in any partners throughout the years?

DIEHL:   Partners, as distinguished from young fellows that we hired from time to time for legal research and appearance in contested cases . . .

LaVOY:  Now, were they young lawyers that you hired?

DIEHL:   Yeah. They'd be studying for the bar examinations, needed something to carry them over and get some experience so we can kind of help them during their study periods which we conducted in the office. But then we did hire Mike Evans and he became a full partner.

LaVOY:  When did he join you as a partner?

DIEHL:   I think it was 1965 or 1966.

LaVOY:  Now, isn't it interesting that the first man that you worked for was his father as mayor, and he joined your firm. So, then, there were the three [Diehl, Recanzone, and Evans] of you.

DIEHL:   There was the three of us, and then there was Stanley Smart who became judge. Then through illness he's no longer a [district] judge, and there was Lyman McConnell.

LaVOY:  They were partners of yours?

DIEHL:   Yup. Lyman quit to take position at T.C.I.D. [Truckee Carson Irrigation District] with our blessing because he was very, very bright, and he's a very bright individual and feel he was ideally suited for the job, and Stanley Smart--of course, a man of exceptional ability, but he had health problems, too. He had been appointed district judge to fill a vacancy created by a resignation.

LaVOY:  Well, then did Mario eventually have to resign?

DIEHL:   No, he became judge May 4, 1982.

LaVOY:  So that left you and Mike Evans.

DIEHL:   Right.

LaVOY:  The two of you, and you continued your association until Mike Evans passed away recently [September, 1992].

DIEHL:   My association actually was terminated in 1989.

LaVOY:  Now, you lived in Fallon for a good number of years, and I understand that you were one of the people responsible for getting the golf course going.

DIEHL:   There was a group of us.

LaVOY:  Now, how did you go about that?

DIEHL:   I wasn't in on the first . . . actually three or four of the fellows were drinking beer together at Leno's [Restaurant, 1350 West Williams Avenue] talking about a golf course, and they tried to get prominent citizens involved and went to work out at the course as if they knew what they were doing which we didn't but the course was all made.

LaVOY:  Who did you buy the land from, do you recall?

DIEHL:   Yes, it was John Hannifan--not the county commissioner, John Hannifan--who owned property across where Alex Burnette . . .

LaVOY:  This would be Laurada Hannifan's husband?

DIEHL:   Yeah.

LaVOY:  And did you handle the legal work for the acquisition of the ground?

DIEHL:   Most of it, yeah, Mario and I.

LaVOY:  Then, did each of you put in money towards the purchase of the ground, or how did you handle that?

DIEHL:   Some cases we exchanged labor, materials, a little bit of everything, really.

LaVOY:  Good. Do you still play golf?

DIEHL:   When I can. I mean, depending on how I feel on a particular day.

LaVOY:  Good. Now, where did you and your wife and your daughter live in Fallon?

DIEHL:   A fellow by the name of C. H. Foo owned two or three houses directly almost, I'd say catty cornered from the Episcopal Church, and we rented from him. Then we moved to Richards Street, and then I borrowed money and built our first house on Bailey Street. And then the house I was living in on El Rancho Drive before I got married [second time]. I built that house in 1974. [End of tape 1]

LaVOY:  Now, Jack, you mentioned to me that you had your daughter, Debbie Ann. Did you have any more children?

DIEHL:   My son, Jon Gregory, was adopted, and that was April 25, 1958.

LaVOY:  And he was adopted here in Fallon?

DIEHL:   Right.

LaVOY:  I see. Now, I understand that your wife became ill and things became very difficult because of her illness. What was the cause of her illness?

DIEHL:   She had polio when we first moved here.

LaVOY:  She had polio when you first moved to Fallon?

DIEHL:   Shortly after. It was 1951. There was an epidemic. Then in January and February, 1978, she had cancer and passed away in 1978.

LaVOY:  That must have been very difficult, and you took over and cared for the children. They were pretty well grown by then, were they not?

DIEHL:   Yeah, they were.

LaVOY:  Now, your daughter went off to school in California for a year at Dominican College. Then where did she go to finish?

DIEHL:   She just finished about a month ago. (laughing) Not a month ago, but a comparatively short time ago, within the last two years.

LaVOY:  From what university?

DIEHL:   Portland.

LaVOY:  University of Portland?

DIEHL:   Um hum.

LaVOY:  Oh! She lives in Portland, I am assuming.

DIEHL:   Right.

LaVOY:  And then your son lives here?

DIEHL:   Right.

LaVOY:  Oh, I see. Now, I wanted to ask you one thing. In fact, I'm regressing a little bit. I notice there was a gentleman by the name of Peter Lugaski was the chief of police when you first came to Fallon. Can you tell me something about the police chiefs that you've had during your term here?

DIEHL:   I just can't pull them out. I know Peter Lugaski.

LaVOY:  Was he a good chief?

DIEHL:   Adequate. And then there was Ed Gibbs, I think he was chief. Don Mills. There's a story. (laughing) In fact, I think it'd be too complicated, but they had to deal with a group of kids from Chicago [Illinois] that came through Fallon. Doc Dingacci and I and our wives went down to Las Vegas attending a meeting and playing golf, and he was in the room next to me and I heard him cackle. What happened was these kids, about five or six of them, kidnapped our police department.

LaVOY:  The whole police department?

DIEHL:   Just about, yeah.

LaVOY:  Here in Fallon?

DIEHL:   Yeah.

LaVOY:  How'd they do that?

DIEHL:   I wish I had the transcript of that. It ended up that I had to prosecute. I was district attorney at the time and there were three girls and three boys, and one or two of the fellows were ex-felons, and they had a running, I say, call it battle. I don't know that any shots were exchanged. Finally apprehended them in Lyon County, and then I prosecuted them.

LaVOY:  They came into Fallon, got in trouble, the police descended upon them.

DIEHL:   What happened is they got into the police station, and through the booking procedures, apparently they were suspected of something, I can't recall. Two or three were juveniles, and . . . in order to get the full value of that one I think it'd be almost necessary to continue 'cause that was wild one.

LaVOY:  You were district attorney 1955 through 1958.

DIEHL:   It was during that period.

LaVOY:  I have never heard of a police department being kidnapped. (laughing)

DIEHL:   Maybe I'm using the term too technically, but it did have . .

LaVOY:  Well, now, you prosecuted them, and what happened to them?

DIEHL:   A young fellow by the name of Stanitz, apparently from an excellent family, just got caught up in this thing. He asked for a jury trial. Harold Taber from Reno was retained to defend him, and I thought it was too serious a crime to be treated as juvenile, and so we had a jury trial and he was found guilty.

LaVOY:  Was that here in Fallon?

DIEHL:   Um hum.

LaVOY:  And Harold Taber came from Reno to represent him.

DIEHL:   Right.

LaVOY:  Did he go to prison?

DIEHL:   Very short time. His father was rather wealthy apparently. He hired Taber and when he was found guilty, the defense then retained Howard McKissick. I want to say Charles Springer was on that, but I can't recall, but they went through the Board of Pardons, and they determined that he was a juvenile, and they pardoned him--the Supreme Court--and I raised hell about it.

LaVOY:  It went to the Supreme Court?

DIEHL:   Yeah. Well, no, the Supreme Court was the Board of Pardons then.

LaVOY:  Oh, I see, in Nevada.

DIEHL: Yeah.

LaVOY: That's really something.

DIEHL:   It really was.

LaVOY:  Well, now, you have been here for quite some time. What organizations have you belonged to, Jack?

DIEHL:   I was Rotary, past president; Fallon Shrine Club, past president; Navy League, past president. The others I can't think.

LaVOY:  Well, you've been a very active man all the years that you have been here in Fallon. Very active, and you've done a lot for your community for which you are to be commended.

DIEHL:   We all have that obligation.

LaVOY:  That's a very good attitude. Now, Jack, your wife passed away, as you say, in the late 1970's, and you were recently remarried. Would you give me the name of your present wife?

DIEHL:   Yes, it's Deanna Woodliff Diehl.

LaVOY:  And when were you married?

DIEHL:   April 13, 1991.

LaVOY:  Are you doing a lot of traveling now that you're retired?

DIEHL:   The trouble is, she's not retired.

LaVOY:  Oh, I see. And what does she do?

DIEHL:   She's in charge of the [Churchill County] Convention Center.

LaVOY:  Are you still active playing golf when you can?

DIEHL:   Yean.

LaVOY:  Jack, you've had some very, very ill health the last few years, and you've handled it just beautifully. You're an inspiration to all of us. Have you been able to find medical help in Nevada, or have you had to go out of Nevada for it?

DIEHL:   Combination. Gone out of Nevada because of this medical facility that specializes in Parkinson's disease and what they call movement disorders in San Jose, California. I'm being treated by them. There's no cure for the disease. The idea is to try to slow it down. I went to Scripp's Clinic in San Diego [La Jolla, California] and Woodland Clinic in Davis, California.

LaVOY:  But, in spite of that, you've still been active community-wise.

DIEHL:   Slowed down considerably. (laughing)

LaVOY:  Well, I think after all the years of service that you gave and all of the years that you were the assistant city attorney and everything that you deserve a little bit of rest. When you finally retired as assistant city attorney I know a big party was given in your honor. What did you feel when you walked in and saw all those people in the Community Center?

DIEHL:   I couldn't believe it.

LaVOY:  You couldn't believe it?

DIEHL:   No. At first, I didn't even know it involved me.

LaVOY:  I think that was one of the first things we attended when we moved to Fallon, and I was so impressed with the way that all of the people came up to you and showed such heartfelt warmth to you and thanked you for all of your years of service.

DIEHL:   I appreciated that.

LaVOY:  Is there anything that we may have missed in your years as a legal counsel that you think might be interesting to add to our interview?

DIEHL:   I'm a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a very prestigious organization, and in fact, Mike Evans was invited to attend that group. I was notified because I was the one that sponsored him, and they received the approval, and they hadn't even formalized it when he passed away. I'm a member of the State Bar Association.

LaVOY:  You are currently on the bar association?

DIEHL:   All attorneys are, but then the management of the State Bar, of course, is by committee, appointed by the Supreme Court and voted on by the attorneys. I was president of the State Bar in 1968, I think.

LaVOY:  How a long a term is that?

DIEHL:   Actually, as high as six, seven, or eight years within that period of time.

LaVOY:  And how long were you president?

DIEHL:   Just one year in presidency, as far as it goes. In other words, you can't repeat.

LaVOY:  You can only serve one term, is that it?

DIEHL:   Right.

LaVOY:  NOw, what is this that you mentioned that you could go on for eight years? What did you mean by that?

DIEHL:   It was a kind of following the chairs.

LaVOY:  Oh, I see. You started in at the bottom and worked your way up.

DIEHL:   Right.

LaVOY:  Oh. What are your feelings about our [Nevada] Supreme Court now? There's seems to be a lot of wrangling going on within the Supreme Court and do you feel that this is necessary, or is this a detriment to the Court?

DIEHL:   I feel sorry. It's a detriment to the Court, and without laying blame on any of the justices, but it hurts the legal profession. And, hopefully, they won't buy anymore chairs, and they'll get things straightened out. (laughing)

LaVOY:  Well, those chairs were very expensive, weren't they? Do you feel that it is more a north-south problem with the Supreme Court at this moment rather than lawyer versus lawyer?

DIEHL:   I don't think so.

LaVOY:  You feel it's lawyer versus lawyer.

DIEHL:   I think so.

LaVOY:  I know Charlie Springer is on the Supreme Court, and you mentioned something here in the past that he was one of the lawyers when the young men captured (laughing) our local police department. Do you feel that he has moved up as a good lawyer?

DIEHL:   I've always respected Charlie's ability. In that case, I was against him, and he was every bit of a gentleman dealing with a stipulation, discussions of settlement and the like.

LaVOY:  Did you represent your firm before the Supreme Court more than the other members that your firm did?

DIEHL:   Probably so. Not by design, by accident.

LaVOY:  But you spent many cases in front of the Supreme Court?

DIEHL:   Um hum.

LaVOY:  Now, a question. Did you win them, Jack?

DIEHL:   Some I did, and some I didn't.

LaVOY:  (laughing) That's an unfair question, but I just wanted to know. Well, I think that we have pretty well covered everything, and if there is something that you should think of that you would like to include, please give me a call and we can do some recording for you. And on behalf of the Churchill County Museum's Oral History Project I want to thank you for this interview, and this is the end of the interview.

Original Format

Audio Cassette



Social Bookmarking



jack deihl.JPG
john diehl oral history.docx
Diehl, John W.mp3


Churchill County Museum Association, “John W. "Jack" Diehl Oral History,” Churchill County Museum Digital Archive: Fallon, Nevada, accessed July 1, 2022,