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Berkeley L. Bunker

Berkeley L. Bunker

American politician
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American politician
Countries United States of America
Occupations Politician Priest
Gender male
Birth 12 August 1906 (St. Thomas, Nevada, U.S.A.)
Death 21 January 1999 (Las Vegas, Clark County, Nevada, U.S.A.)
Star sign Leo
The details

Berkeley Lloyd Bunker (August 12, 1906 – January 21, 1999) was a United States Senator and Representative from Nevada.

Early life

Born in what was then St. Thomas, Clark County, Nevada (now a northern arm of Lake Mead), he attended public schools, graduating from Clark County High School in 1926. Bunker married Lucile Whitehead, then entered the tire and oil business in Las Vegas in 1934.


The Democrat Bunker was a member of the Nevada Assembly from 1936 to 1941, serving as speaker in 1939. When United States Senator Key Pittman died just after reelection in 1940, many candidates sought to be appointed as replacement. On November 26, Governor Edward P. Carville surprised the state and appointed Bunker as Pittman's replacement for the term ending January 3, 1941, and also for the term ending January 3, 1947 serving until December 6, 1942 when a duly elected successor qualified.

The young new senator, whom Carville likely chose as a compromise candidate because (as an observer later said) "Nobody was mad at Berkeley Bunker", later claimed to be the "most surprised man in the state" as he had not asked for the job. Bunker was the first southern Nevadan, and first Nevadan Mormon, to serve in federal office. As a Senator he made headlines by accusing Basic Magnesium of having negotiated a contract with the government to get exorbitant profits.

Bunker lost to former governor James Scrugham in the Democratic primary for the 1942 special election, but was elected in 1944 as a Democrat to Nevada's only House seat, after defeating incumbent Maurice Sullivan in the primary and Republican former actor Rex Bell in the general election. In 1946 He introduced a bill to incorporate Boulder City, Nevada removing it from Federal control, but the bill never made it out of committee.

When Scrugham died in 1945 Carville resigned so Lieutenant Governor Vail Pittman would succeed him and appoint him to the vacancy. In what he later called "the biggest mistake of my political career", instead of running for reelection to the House, Bunker challenged Carville in the Democratic primary for the 1946 election; Bunker won, but according to fellow Democrats, he had committed what the Las Vegas Review-Journal later described as the "heinous crime of political ingratitude, becoming a party pariah". Observers expected Bunker to easily defeat Republican George Malone, but the Democratic vote was divided and Malone won.

Bunker became a hotel manager, then joined his brother in founding the Bunker Brothers mortuary. Bunker ran for Lieutenant Governor in 1962 but lost to Republican Paul Laxalt, in part because former Carville supporters still disliked his defeat of their candidate in 1946.


Lucile Bunker died in 1988, and her widower married Della Lee in 1989. Bunker died in 1999 and was interred in Bunkers Eden Vale Cemetery. He was the last living Senator who was serving at the time of the United States' declaration of war on Japan, which precipitated the United States' participation in World War II; as well as the last living person who had served as a Senator during the time FDR was president. Berkeley L. Bunker Elementary School in Las Vegas is named after him.

Personal life

Bunker was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served a mission for the church in the southern United States after high school and before his marriage. After his time in the Senate Bunker served as bishop of a LDS ward in Las Vegas, and was involved with the building of the Las Vegas Nevada Temple.

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