• Post published:December 7, 2022
  • Post category:TV / News

Mills Lane, who rose to fame first as a boxer, then referee, Washoe County district attorney and judge, died Tuesday morning in Reno.

Lane was 85 years old.

His son, Tommy Lane, told the RGJ that Lane died after being in hospice for the past week.

Lane suffered a stroke 20 years ago, in April 2002.

“He took a significant decline in his overall situation,” Tommy Lane said. “It was a quick departure. He was comfortable and he was surrounded by his family.”

His family, wife Kaye and sons Terry and Tommy, were with him when he died.

“You never knew how long he had. We kind of felt like we were preparing for this all along, but there’s no such thing as preparing for this,” Tommy Lane said.

Tommy Lane said they spent the past few days watching several of his father’s favorite movies, including “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” a movie starring Paul Newman about Rocky Graziano, as well “The Godfather,” “On The Waterfront,” “Patton” and “Shane.”

They also watched Lane’s fight from the 1960 college boxing championship.

“We had a great last couple of days with him,” Tommy Lane said. “He was eating breakfast. We got him some Dairy Queen.”

Tommy Lane said no funeral service is planned, but that the family might hold a memorial at a later date.

“He hated funerals,” Tommy Lane said. “We might do some sort of send-off, celebration at a bar, or something like that, but not a traditional funeral.”

Former Washoe County district attorney Dick Gammick said Lane was his mentor, and said Lane was like a brother to him.

Lane hated living with the effects of the stroke, including struggling to speak, Gammick said.

“The worst thing in the world that could have happened to Mills was losing his ability to talk,” Gammick said. “Reno owes him a debt because he did a lot for Reno.”

He said Lane helped numerous children throughout the community.

Mike Martino, Nevada boxing club coach and former president of USA Boxing, saw Lane the day before he died.

“We were sucker-punched 20 years ago,” Martino said. “It was almost like we got an eight-count, in boxing terminology, when we heard he had the stroke. He is Nevada. He is Reno.”

Martino recalled how Lane would run every morning in his gray sweats, then go hit the heavy bag in his garage for three rounds before heading to the courthouse.

“His family loved that man so much and protected him,” Martino said.

Keith Lee worked in the Washoe County district attorney’s office with Lane in the early 1970s.

He recalled that Lane would always carry a pistol, and once stopped a gas station robber by holding him at gun point until the police arrived.

“He was such a genuine guy,” Lee said. “He was one of the good guys. Worked hard, was a great public servant. Loved his job. Loved being district attorney. Loved being a referee. Truly an icon in our community in so many respects.”

Former Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Marc Ratner said Lane was one of the top boxing referees in the world.

“I was very blessed to have him, to be able to assign him some of the major fights,” Ratner said. “Great credit to the sport. Just a wonderful human being.”

Jay Nady knew Lane since their days in college at UNR.

He said Lane talked him into becoming a boxing referee. Nady recalled that Lane would wear a small golden noose around his neck and once gave a campaign talk to the Veterans’ Hall, saying, “Elect me, I’ll hang them.'”

Nady, who ran Lane’s election campaign’s when he was running for district attorney, said he introduced Lane to his wife Kaye.

“He was a tough guy to get along with, but he was my pal. We loved each other,” Nady said. “He was just a good man. Boxing wasn’t nearly as good without him. I think he’s happier now than he was before he died. He did not like being a man who needed assistance. It was beneath him to ask for help.”

Former Nevada Gov. and U.S. Senator Richard Bryan recalled how Lane was fair and impartial and did not let politics cloud his opinions.

He said Lane was involved in boxing when it had a much higher profile and many big fights were held in Nevada when Lane was a referee.

“Whether people liked boxing or not, it was the place to go. And, of course, it was a great show and Mills was part of that show,” Bryan said. “Mills was fearless and what was right, was right.”

He said Lane was a no-nonsense person.

“There was no sugar-coating. He laid it out,” Bryan said. “And I think that was part of his appeal.”

Washoe County district attorney Chris Hicks issued a press release on Lane’s death: “In addition to his legendary status in the boxing world, Mills B. Lane was a pillar of justice in Washoe County.  He was a no-nonsense dedicated District Attorney who put victims of crime and public safety first.  My family and I, as well as the entire Washoe County District Attorney’s Office, mourn his loss.  May he rest in peace.”

Lane joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1956 and became a boxer. When stationed in Okinawa, he became the All Far-East welterweight champion.

At Nevada in 1960, he won the NCAA welterweight title and barely missed making the Olympic team. He turned professional while still in college and compiled a record of 10-1.

Lane graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1963 with a degree in business administration. While there, he began his career as a boxing referee. He graduated from the University of Utah’s College of Law in 1970.

Lane began working in the Washoe County District Attorney’s office as a prosecutor in 1971 and spent nearly 17 years there. He was elected district attorney of Washoe County in 1982. He became a judge of Washoe County’s Second Judicial District Court in 1990. In 1998, he stepped down from the bench to begin a courtroom series, “Judge Mills Lane,” which ran for three years.

Lane refereed boxing matches in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. He became famous for his pre-fight phrase, “Let’s get it on.” He was the referee in more than 100 world championship fights. He also refereed in many less important fights out of love for the sport and his respect for fighters.

Lane became a household name in the United States on June 28, 1997, the night he refereed “The Bite Fight,” a rematch between world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and challenger Mike Tyson at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Tyson twice bit Holyfield’s ears in the early rounds, and Lane disqualified him.

The City of Reno honored him on Dec. 27, 2004, proclaiming it “Mills Lane Day.” In May 2006, a new justice administration building in downtown Reno was named after him. The building houses the Reno Municipal Court and the Washoe County district attorney’s office.

Source: Reno Gazette Journal