William Woodburn - Republican, Appointed

12th Nevada Attorney General

Term:  January 15, 1901 - January 5, 1903


William Woodburn, born in County Wicklow, Ireland, on April 14, 1838, immigrated with his parents to the United States in 1849.  He attended St. Charles College, Maryland; studied law; and gained admitted to the Nevada State Bar on January 4, 1866.[1]  Shortly thereafter, Mr. Woodburn commenced the practice of law in Virginia City, Storey County, Nevada.

In 1871 and 1872, voters elected Woodburn as the District Attorney of Storey County.  In 1874, voters elected Woodburn (Republican) multiple times as Nevada’s only Congressional Representative to the 44th Congress (March 4, 1875–March 3, 1877); to the 49th Congress (March 4, 1885–March 4, 1887); and to the 50th Congress (March 4, 1887–March 4, 1889).  After an unsuccessful bid for the 53rd Congress in 1892, Woodburn resumed his law practice in Virginia City.

On January 15, 1901, Governor Reinhold Sadler appointed Woodburn as Nevada’s 12th Attorney General when Nevada Attorney General William D. Jones resigned from office to become a district court judge.  In the election of 1902, Woodburn did not run for Attorney General, and after his term ended in 1903, he returned to private practice as an attorney.

Office Administration and Duties

Mr. Woodburn had no deputies or other support staff according to the Nevada Attorney General’s budget for the 1901–1903 state biennial fiscal period:

1901–1903 Budget





Attorney General’s Salary




Office expenses came from an appropriation “[f]or a current expense appropriation, to defray the telegraphic, postage, and contingent expenses of the several state officers, Supreme Court, and State Library, to be expended under the direction of the Lieutenant Governor, State Controller, and Secretary of State, $3,600




. . . which [said] sum includes the sum of $300 for necessary typewriting for the offices of the Governor and Attorney

General as directed by them . . .”

The 1901 Nevada State Legislature added additional duties to the office of the Attorney General:

  • The Nevada Attorney general is to take legal action to secure for the State of Nevada any grant, devise, bequest, donation, gift, or assignment of money, bonds, or choses in action of any property, real or personal, made to the State of Nevada.  (Statutes of Nevada 1901, Chapter XIX, page 29).

  • The Governor, Controller, and Attorney General are to ascertain the aggregate value of taxable property when requested (reported) by the several County Auditors.  (Statutes of Nevada 1901, Chapter L, pages 62-63).

  • The Nevada State Board of Irrigation is created with the Nevada Attorney General as a member.  (Statutes of Nevada 1901, Chapter LIX, pages 72-73).

  • The Nevada Board of Examiners–with the Nevada Attorney General as member thereof–is to pay bounties for the boring of wells for oil, natural gas, and artesian water.  (Statutes of Nevada 1901, Chapter LXXVI, pages 86-88).

  • The Nevada Attorney General is to examine the articles of incorporation and by-laws of Mutual Fire Insurances Companies for compliance with state statues governing same.  (Statutes of Nevada 1901, Chapter VIII, pages 110-111).

  • Foreign Corporations doing business in Nevada are required to publish an annual statement in a Nevada newspaper during the month of January of each year.  If the District Attorney does not otherwise take action, the Nevada Attorney General is to take legal action to fine each foreign corporation that does not publish an annual report $100 per day.  (Statutes of Nevada 1901, Chapter CVIII, Pages 118-119).

[1] Nevada Reports, Number 26, p. 30.

    • William Woodburn - Nevada Historical Society