John Cahlan was an important part of Las Vegas journalism and life for more than half a century. Born in Reno in 1902, he was the grandson of men who had moved to Nevada before the Comstock Lode's discovery. Cahlan graduated from the University of Nevada and worked for the Nevada State Journal when its owner was longtime Nevada Democratic politician James Scrugham. Cahlan joined his older brother, Al Cahlan, in Las Vegas in 1929 as the weekly Review expanded to the Las Vegas Review-Journal and became a daily publication. He served as news editor and later managing editor.
Befitting the editor of a small daily newspaper, John Cahlan covered the news, laid out the paper, and shared editorial-writing duties with his brother. He even doubled as sports editor, writing a daily column, "Punts, Pokes, and Putouts." With his top reporter and late wife, Florence Lee Jones, Cahlan was responsible for most of the news appearing in the R-J and most of the news emanating from Las Vegas, since they were the local reporters for the national wire services. Cahlan believed strongly in civic boosterism, promoting economic growth and federal projects in the news columns and on the editorial page. Besides spending a decade as Clark County juvenile officer, he also was active in politics, serving on the Board of Regents of the University of Nevada in the late 1940s, and in such community organizations as the Las Vegas Junior Chamber of Commerce. He remained at the R-J as managing editor until 1961. His brother had resigned the previous year.
Cahlan enjoyed a varied career after his departure from the R-J. He worked briefly for Hank Greenspun, who published the Las Vegas Sun, with which the Cahlans and the R-J had competed and feuded throughout the 1950s. He then joined the Southern Nevada Industrial Foundation, an economic development organization, as managing director until 1971. Active in public service, Cahlan was director of the Nevada Centennial Celebration, vice-chair of the Nevada American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, and a chair of the Las Vegas Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1980. He was also involved in creating the Nevada Division of Records and Archives. Honored with the Distinguished Nevadan award from the university system in 1974, Cahlan's name is on the reading rooms at the Nevada State Museum and Historical Society in Las Vegas, and the Nevada State Archives in Carson City. It is a fitting culmination to a long career of building up Las Vegas while writing and preserving Nevada history.