1000 E. University Avenue
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-5160
Toll Free: (800) 342-5996
Fax: (307) 766-4042
Constructed in 1959 and opened as a women’s dormitory in 1960, Ross Hall since 1976 has housed academic offices for a number of departments. In the early 2000s, the Wyoming Press Association’s “Newspaper Hall of Fame” was established on the fourth floor.
The building is named for the nation’s first woman governor, Nellie Tayloe Ross, elected governor of Wyoming in 1924. Gov. Ross did not attend UW, but an incident that led to her election occurred in the “assembly room” of Old Main in late September, 1924.
Gov. Ross’ husband, William Ross, was elected governor of Wyoming in 1922. Although his term did not expire until 1926, he stumped the state during the 1924 campaign in an effort to gain support for a State Constitutional Amendment to adopt a severance tax on minerals.
During this strenuous statewide speaking tour, Ross spoke to a large crowd of Laramie residents in the Old Main assembly room. Toward the end of his speech, he became ill and was driven back to Cheyenne, where he was admitted to the hospital with severe abdominal pains. The next morning, his appendix burst and within days, Ross died. The election, only a month away, suddenly became an election for governor as well as for the constitutional amendment.
Both political parties were caught off guard by Ross’s death. The republicans tapped E.J. Sullivan, a Casper Oil man, who had served as Speaker of the House. The Democratic state chairman, Dr. J. L. Hylton, a Douglas medical doctor, suggested that his party nominate Ross’ widow. No woman had ever been elected governor in any state at that time.
Nellie Ross accepted the nomination and won in a close election. She was inaugurated the first woman governor in the U. S. (“Ma” Ferguson of Texas had been elected on the same day, mostly as a ploy by her disgraced husband to retain his office, but Mrs. Ferguson was inaugurated more than a week after Gov. Ross.
Meanwhile, Gov. Ross’ husband’s cherished Constitutional Amendment went down in defeat by a narrow margin. Her term was generally undistinguished except for the national attention her unique status provided. Although defeated for re-election, Nellie Ross was appointed director of the United States Mint by Franklin D. Roosevelt. She stayed in that post until her retirement in 1953. When she died in 1976, she was over 100 years old.
A brass plague between the elevators on the ground floor of Ross Hall bears Nellie Ross’ likeness in relief. Only two other campus buildings are named for Wyoming governors; however, in both these cases, the honor was in recognition of their service as university president, not as governor.