Celebrating 75 Years of Serving Nevada’s Legal, Business, Government, and Civic Communities

Remembering and Honoring Thomas R.C. “Spike” Wilson

It is with great sadness that we share the difficult news of the passing of Thomas R.C. “Spike” Wilson on March 28, 2022. Spike was a beloved founder of our Firm, an icon throughout Nevada, and a caring and compassionate human being. A celebration of life was held in Reno, Nevada at The Elm Estate at 1401 W. 2nd Street on May 17 at 2:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in honor of Spike to either the Nature Conservancy of Nevada (1 East 1st Street, Suite 1007, Reno, NV 89501) or the Nevada Land Trust (P.O. Box 20288, Reno, NV 89515). The obituary is published here in the Reno-Gazette Journal.

Spike joined McDonald Carano in 1964. He was a reliable teammate, dedicated colleague, and helpful friend. He was a great law partner, a generous mentor, and an extraordinarily talented lawyer. It was a privilege to work with him and it is an honor for his name to be included in the proud history of McDonald Carano Wilson. Spike will always be part of our family. He served his clients and his community with integrity, dignity and fairness. Throughout his personal and professional life, Spike made a meaningful difference in the lives of others. The hallmarks of Spike’s character made him a natural leader at the Firm. Spike’s legal expertise, effectiveness in the courtroom, and highly respected professionalism made him more than a named partner; he was a longtime pillar of the character of our Firm.

More than an integral part of our Firm; Spike was an integral part of Nevada. He served as a Nevada state Senator from 1970 to 1986 – an outstanding four terms, 16 years, eight regular sessions, and two special sessions. He served during the terms of three different Governors, served on 12 different standing committees during his legislative career, and served as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee for two sessions and Senate Commerce and Labor Committee for three sessions. His leadership started immediately when he served as Chair of the Senate Committee on Ecology during his first session. He was involved in a great deal of legislation, including the creation and implementation of the Ethics Commission and ethics legislation, and the development of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency which is only one example of his unwavering protection of Nevada’s natural resources. Spike was inducted into the Nevada Senate Hall of Fame in 1999. After retiring from the Nevada legislature, Spike served as chairman of the Nevada Ethics Commission from 1991 to 1996. During his entire legislative service, Spike was admired for his dedication to public duty, his respect for the purpose of government, and his commitment to good policy. He disdained partisanship and was driven solely to do the right thing – for the people of Nevada, the state of Nevada, and the future of Nevada.

Spike was a true Nevadan who will be greatly missed by all who knew him, worked with him, and heard about him. Spike was a fourth-generation Nevadan, grew up in Reno, and spent time on the family ranch in Carson City. He attended Reno public schools and graduated from Reno High School where he served as student body president. After graduating from Stanford University, where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity and served as president of the Interfraternity Council, Spike attended Georgetown University Law Center where one of his many accolades includes being a Moot Court Champion. Following graduation from Georgetown, he moved back to Reno and began his legal career as a U.S Attorney for the District of Nevada before joining McDonald Carano.

Spike is survived by his wife Janice; his sister, Mary Elizabeth Wilson Vlaming (David); his children Ann Nelson (R.M. “Jim”), Ina M. Wilson, Thomas RC Wilson, III (Cheryl), John Wilson (Michelle Elliott), and James Wilson; as well as his stepchildren Denise Norton (William), Amy Pine (Frank Rinella) and Elaine Peterson (Kurt Peterson, dec.). Spike was a loving grandfather to Jennifer Nelson, Morgan Nelson, Kaitlyn Nelson, Samuel Wilson, James Wilson, Connor Norton, Liam Norton, Alice Peterson, and Frances Pine-Rinella. Our thoughts are with Spike’s wife and the family he loved so much.

With admiration and gratitude, we remember and honor our partner, Spike Wilson.

About McDonald Carano

In 2024, McDonald Carano celebrates 75 years of serving Nevada’s legal, business, government, and civic communities. More than 60 lawyers and government relations professionals serve Nevada, national, and international clients from our offices in Reno, Las Vegas, and Carson City. McDonald Carano provides legal services and government affairs and advocacy advice to startups, corporations, private companies, trade associations, nonprofits, public entities, high-net-worth individuals, and family offices throughout Nevada. We are proud to be your Nevada law firm since 1949.

Media Contact

Mark Buckovich


You have chosen to send an email to McDonald Carano. The sending or receipt of this email and the information in it does not in itself create an attorney-client relationship. If you are not already a client, you should not provide us with information that you wish to have treated as privileged or confidential without first speaking to one of our lawyers. If you provide information before we confirm that you are a client and that we are willing and able to represent you, we may not be required to treat that information as privileged, confidential, or protected information, and we may be able to represent a party adverse to you.

I have read this and want to send an email.