Edwin E. Roberts came to Nevada in 1897 to attend the March 17 heavyweight prizefight between Bob Fitzsimmons and James Corbett, and he stayed. Born in Pleasant Grove, California, on December 12, 1869, Roberts graduated from California State Normal School in 1891 and worked for several years as a teacher and principal. He settled in Carson City, Nevada, where he taught school at Empire, read law, and was admitted to the bar. He was elected Ormsby County district attorney in 1900.
Roberts won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1910 and served three terms. On April 6, 1917, he joined fifty-one other congressmen in voting against U.S. entry into the First World War. The following year, he announced he would run for the Senate to succeed Francis Newlands, who had just died. Roberts's vote against the war did not seem to hurt him. In the Republican primary election, one of his opponents, Walter Lamb of Tonopah, attacked Roberts for supposedly making the nation doubt Nevada's patriotism. Roberts trounced Lamb in the primary, but could not combat a Democratic tide that year, losing to Charles Henderson.
Roberts returned to Nevada and opened a law office in Reno. Elected mayor of Reno in 1923, he became a national symbol of municipal permissiveness when a speech he delivered before the First Methodist Church congregation endorsed legalized gambling and the end of the national prohibition against alcohol. Roberts tried for the U.S. Senate again in 1926, but failed to win the GOP primary against incumbent Tasker Oddie. He ran for governor in 1930 and lost in the primary to incumbent Fred Balzar.
Edwin Roberts remained popular with Reno voters, twice winning reelection as mayor. He died in office on December 11, 1933.
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