Frank W. Daykin

Frank W. Daykin, born October 28, 1920 in Cleveland, Ohio, was a Midwesterner with the soul of a classicist. He became “the editor’s editor” and, in the process, reshaped the way Nevada statutes are read.

An only child, his father a surgeon and his mother a teacher of Latin and algebra, Mr. Daykin acquired an early desire for knowledge. He aspired to teach classical languages, the subject he called his “great love.” Studying Latin and Greek, and fluent in French and German, Mr. Daykin chose pragmatism over love, majoring in mathematics and physics at Adelbert College (now Case Western Reserve University).

A post-Pearl Harbor college government-sponsored physics project took Mr. Daykin into the U.S. Army Signal Corps. He was commissioned a second lieutenant-captain, and served in North Africa (Morocco) and Europe. After World War II, Mr. Daykin studied mathematics and physics at Princeton. At his aging father’s request for help with the family farm, he returned home.

Settling on the law as a career, Mr. Daykin attended law school at Case Western Reserve. He established a solo law practice and managed the family farm, which led to an office on the farm, and a position as member and chairman of the Lake County (Ohio) Planning Commission.

How a self-described loner and Ohio farmer came to Nevada is a testament to the lure and mythology of western opportunity. On the word of a local urban planner that Nevada “was a good place,” Mr. Daykin organized his affairs and headed west. While waiting to take the Nevada Bar, he was hired by the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB) and, as they say, the rest is history.

In the span of twenty years, Mr. Daykin became an institutional oracle to the Nevada Legislature. His maxim was that “a law, a statute, should either command or prohibit or declare the law. It has no other legitimate office.” Mr. Daykin became synonymous with the difference between “shall” and “should.” “Shall,” he explained, “is a command. ‘Is’ declares the law.” Like Xerox or Kleenex or Google, Mr. Daykin was the namesake and embodiment of an entire category, the Daykinism—a “kind of language which is correct English, rather than common speech, and something which occurs often enough in different bills that it is recognized.” Throughout his LCB career, Mr. Daykin continued to “reconcile the substance of the statutes,” and “correct the language and style.”

Mr. Daykin talks of his time as a member of the National Conference of Commissioners of Uniform State Laws, which dovetailed with his interests in producing good language and style in drafting laws that could be adopted in all fifty states. He speaks of his scholarly values and philosophy. He acknowledges the changes in the legislature and legislators as Nevada grew from “one senator and one assemblyman from every county,” into a more populous and urban state. His practical leanings are apparent when he admits that while bringing the LCB into the computer age, he kept “the old Mag Card typewriters on standby.”

In his own words, one of his major contributions was to “attempt rationality in the reapportionment,” and in continually trying to improve the language of the statutes. Frank W. Daykin is a true citizen scholar.

For readers who are interested in examining the unaltered records, copies of the recorded interviews are available in the Special Collections department of the UNR Library.

Susan Imswiler conducted oral history interviews with Frank W. Daykin in September 2004, at his home in Reno, Nevada, as part of the Nevada Legal Oral History Project, a joint effort of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society (NJCHS), the Nevada Judicial Historical Society (NJHS), and the UNOHP. Begun in 2001, the project was intended to record the life stories of leading members of

Nevada’s legal profession and to educate the public about law and the courts by making those stories widely available through various media.
Members of the boards of NJHS and NJCHS compiled and vetted lists of potential narrators, ultimately selecting representatives from both the state and federal benches and bars. The UNOHP, under the direction of Tom King and his successor Mary Larson, recommended interviewers, most of whom were professional oral historians, and donated equipment and transcription services. Brad Williams, of NJCHS, coordinated the project from its inception. Susan Southwick, of NJHS, oversaw that group’s participation. Patricia Cooper-Smith completed the copyediting and introductions. Alicia Barber, Director of the UNOHP since 2009, supervised the project’s final publication and dissemination. The project was made possible by a generous challenge grant from the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust, with matching funds provided by the U.S. District Court for Nevada Attorney Admissions Fund, the Washoe County Courthouse Preservation Fund, and the Nevada State Bar. Thanks go to Susan Southwick and the Board of Trustees of NJHS, and to Susan Imswiler, who interviewed Mr. Daykin.

Interviewee: Frank W. Daykin
Interviewed: 2004
Published: 2013
Interviewer: Susan Imswiler
UNOHP Catalog #224

This introduction is reprinted with permission from the University of Nevada Oral History Archive, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno. The full oral history transcript was created for the Nevada Legal Oral History Project. Click here for the full oral history transcript.

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