Flora Turchinsky Dungan—social worker, accountant, university regent, and state legislator—brought the successful lawsuit that forced Nevada to reapportion its legislature and the governing board of its university system, giving Southern Nevada equal representation in state government.
Born in Minnesota in 1917 to Russian immigrants, Dungan graduated from high school in 1933 and from Los Angeles Junior College in 1936. In 1938, she received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of California at Berkeley, and worked in legal research and child welfare. Unable to find employment in her chosen fields during World War II, she worked as an accountant.
In 1948, Dungan divorced her husband, L. Donald Dungan, after the couple moved to Las Vegas. Although she remarried three times, she retained Dungan's last name. She continued working as a public accountant while becoming an active member of various service and professional organizations. Dungan's involvement in the Democratic Party led her to serve on the county and state central committees where she laid the groundwork for her tenure in the Nevada legislature.
In 1962, Clark County voters elected Dungan to the state assembly. She served during the 1963 regular session and a special session in 1964. That year, Dungan and Dr. Clare Woodbury of Las Vegas filed a suit against the state over its formula for apportionment of legislators. Dungan and Woodbury argued that Clark County—one of Nevada's fastest growing regions—sent the same number of representatives to the legislature as the smaller rural counties.
When the 1965 regular legislative session adjourned without addressing the volatile matter of apportionment, Dungan v. Sawyer was heard in Federal District Court. Labeling Nevada's apportionment formula unconstitutional, the court ruled in favor of Dungan, forcing Governor Grant Sawyer to call a special legislative session to settle the matter. Legislators finally agreed on a plan after several acrimonious weeks. In the end, Clark County gained seven seats in the senate and four in the assembly.
After her return to the assembly in 1967, Dungan led another important lawsuit against the State of Nevada—this time for an expansion of the University of Nevada Board of Regents. Once again, her persuasive argument that Southern Nevada was not receiving fair representation led to Clark County acquiring a majority of the Board's seats. Dungan was also the first woman to serve on the assembly judiciary committee, where she fought to reform the state's prison system.
After an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the state senate in 1968, the longtime childrens' advocate founded Focus, an assistance camp for juveniles. Dungan was elected to the Board of Regents in 1972. Her life was cut short when she was diagnosed with cancer and died on October 25, 1973. The humanities building at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus bears Dungan's name.
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