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Willam J. Raggio

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Willam J. Raggio Obituary
William J. Raggio

"Statesman, Leader, Friend"

Oct. 30, 1926 Feb. 24, 2012

William John Raggio, Jr., former Washoe County District Attorney, the longest serving state senator in Nevada history, successful gaming attorney, and one of Nevada's most admired citizens, died of respiratory illness while on vacation in Sydney, Australia on February 24. He was 85.

Born on October 30, 1926 in Reno to William J. and Clara Cardelli Raggio, Bill lived a full and genuine Nevada life and, throughout it all, he did it his way.

Like so many others of his "greatest" generation, Bill was always a gentleman, a caring father, grandfather and great-grandfather, he was a quietly reliable friend to those less fortunate and a man with a clear and resolute voice that frequently reminded us that there are no barriers to what can be accomplished if we summon the will to work together.

Upon his retirement from elected office in 2011 after 56 years in public life, Bill remarked, "There were good times, tough times and fun times. Naturally, there were disagreements but I always felt the final result was always in the best interest of Nevada."

He attended Orvis Ring Elementary School, Northside Junior High School and graduated from Reno High School in 1944. Bill joined the Boy Scouts of America in 1938 and later credited his success to that experience. At a ceremony honoring him as National Distinguished Eagle Scout in 1989, Bill said, "Scouting taught me the importance of principles, morals and achievement. I have received a lot of recognition in my life, but I think the Eagle Scout Badge was the one I cherish most."

At age 17, Bill enlisted in the Navy and graduated from officer training school as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps at the end of World War II.

He attended Louisiana Tech University, the University of Oklahoma, and the University of Nevada, Reno where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948. While at the University of Nevada, he was a proud member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.

He later obtained a law degree from the Hastings College of Law and pursued a master's degree in law from Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley. He was admitted to the Nevada Bar in 1951.

Raggio was district attorney in Washoe County from 1958 to 1970 and was named "Outstanding Prosecutor in the United States" in 1965. He was elected president of the National District Attorneys Association in 1967.

He ran unsuccessfully for the United State Senate in 1970, but two years later was elected to the Nevada State Senate representing Washoe County. During his record five decades in the Senate, ten sessions where he served as Majority Leader, Bill worked beside and with seven Nevada Governors. During that time, he developed a reputation as a master of the legislative process, a skilled negotiator and a leading voice for education excellence.

Bill was particularly interested in seeking changes in public education to improve Nevada student performance. He was the key architect of legislation that required high school seniors to pass math, reading and other proficiency tests before they could receive a full-fledged diploma.

Bill was a senior partner at Jones Vargas Law Firm in Reno/Las Vegas; a member of the Board of Trustees of the E. L. Wiegand Foundation; a trustee of the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation and had served on the Board of Directors of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) since 1983 and was its National Chairman in 1993. He was also a former member of the Board of Directors of Sierra Health Services and Archon Corporation.

He was a member of several clubs and organizations including the State Bar of Nevada; Washoe County Bar Association; American Judicature Society; International Academy of Law & Science; American Trial Lawyers Association; Phi Alpha Delta; Elks; Republican State Central Committee; Reno (Host) Lions Club; American Legion; Prospectors; and the American Board of Criminal Lawyers.

Bill was preceded in death by his parents, his first wife Dorothy and his son Mark William. He is survived by his wife Dale, his daughters Leslie Ann Righetti and Tracy Lynn Chew, grandchildren Jennifer Brie Righetti, Michael Christopher Righetti, Meghan (Dave) Clariché Righetti Nesher, Johnathan "Jolly" William Righetti, Sommer Lynn Fernandes, Anthony Alton William Woodring, one great-grandchild Julien David Nesher, and first cousin Edith Raggio.

A Rosary Service will be held at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 100 Bishop Manogue Drive, Reno, NV on Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 7:00 pm.

A Funeral Mass will be held at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church on Monday, March 5, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

A reception celebrating Bill Raggio's life will be held at The Silver Legacy Casino immediately following the services.

In lieu of flowers and in memory of William J. Raggio, contributions can be made to the University of Nevada, Reno Foundation at Morrill Hall, Reno, NV 89557 or to the Carmelites of Reno, 1950 La Fond Drive, Reno, NV 89509-3099.

Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Walton Funeral Home in Reno. You are invited share a memory or condolence message in the Book of Memories at the website


Published in Reno Gazette-Journal from Feb. 29 to Mar. 3, 2012
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