Charles Francis O’Malley was born in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, in Ascension Parish near New Orleans. He was the fourth child in a family of five. Family lore has it that his parents died of broken hearts when they lost everything to a flood of the Mississippi. At some point, Charles played minor league baseball in St. Louis, and then came West working for the telegraph company wiring telegraph/telephone wires. In fact, one day, when he was working his way through Las Vegas, New Mexico, as he and his partner worked high up on a pole, he espied a young woman practicing her violin on the front porch of a nearby house. He told his friend that he was going to marry that girl, even though he had never seen her before. And sure enough, that was Augusta Fleck, whom he did marry. He settled in Las Vegas and was a prominent citizen there. After he retired from the telephone company, he opened an electric appliance and service shop. He was known as “King” O’Malley, and astride a white horse, he rode as Grand Marshal in the Rough Riders Parade every year. He once organized a prize fight to come to Las Vegas.
Source: Obituary, Las Vegas Optic, October 1969.
“Charles O’Malley services held Sunday at Saint Paul’s Church
A memorial service for Charles Francis O’Malley was held Sunday at 3 p.m. in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, with the Rev. Harold W. Edmondson officiating. Mrs. C. M. Montgomery, at the church organ, provided appropriate music before and after the service. O’Malley died Friday in a local hospital following a brief illness. He was 92 years of age.
Born December 3, 1876 at Donaldsonville, Louisiana, he was the son of Tom and Mary Burke O’Malley. He came to Las Vegas in 1900 when he answered an ad in the Las Vegas Daily Optic for an experienced telephone lineman. After several years with the telephone company, he went into the electrical contracting business from which he retired two years after the close of World War II. He then opened his electrical appliance store which he operated until his retirement , December 31, 1967.
Always active in civic affairs, O’Malley was one of the organizers of the first Cowboys Reunion in 1915. This organization later became the Roosevelt Rough Riders Reunion. Each year he organized and led the parade on horseback as parade marshal. In 1958, much against his will, the horse was replaced by a Jeep.
From 1903 to 1913 he was chief of the East Las Vegas Fire Department of which he was still an honorary member at the time of his death. He was a past member of the Las Vegas Elks Lodge; ant to the last, a faithful member of the Las Vegas Rotary Club.
During his lifetime he was vitally interested in sports. He played professional baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1896 through 1899. One of the highlights of his life was his promotion of the heavy-championship fight here in 1912 between Jack Johnson and Fireman Jim Flynn. [see my Johnson/Flynn Fight page]
On Easter Sunday, 1902, he and Augusta Fleck were married. They celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1952, and in 1959, Mrs. O’Malley passed away.
He is survived by two daughters, Mrs. Mary Josephine Wyles of Los Alamos and Mrs. Augusta O’Malley Weidman of Anchorage, Alaska; his sister-in-law, Miss Julia Fleck of Las Vegas; eight grandchildren; and 16 great-granchildren, the youngest of whom was born October 17.
A daughter, Mrs. Charlotte O’Malley Hoag, died in San Francisco in 1955; a son, Charles Francis O’Malley, Jr., died in 1962 as the result of an explosion in Vallejo, California.
O’Malley’s body was taken to Fariview Memorial Park, Albuquerque, for cremation. His family requests that any memorials in his name be directed to the Rotary Internation Foundation, c/o Mr. Cecil Hope, secretary of Las Vegas Rotary Club, 1234 Seventh St., Las Vegas, NM. Johnson Memorial Mortuary was in charge of arrangements.“
From a January 2000 conversation with Tom R. Wyles III, of Vallejo, California. Tom remembers spending a great deal of time with his grandparents in Las Vegas. His grandfather, Charles O’Malley told him stories of his own childhood. When Charles was a boy, he would ride on the “family train”, and one of his “uncles” had a steamboat and would allow Charles to work the helm.
Charles boxed as well as pitched one year for the St. Louis [Cardinals? Browns?]. Tom remembers that when he was serving in the Navy, aboard the USS Mississippi, which was the center of boxing in the Navy, there was a fellow who remembered Charles O’Malley’s boxing days. [This explains the arranged boxing match in Las Vegas a bit better.]
Charles came west working for Postal Union Telegraph, and Tom remembers that Charles said “We had this caboose where we lived and put up lines as we went along.” Charles learned the craft of working with electricity well, and settled in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Once, he was able to serve the town by fixing the overloaded electric lines after a big parade.
Tom also had a slightly different version of the story of Charles’ first sight of Augusta Fleck. He remembers that Charles was walking down the street when he spotted her practicing on her front porch (rather than being up on a telegraph pole, as the other version goes).
Source: Kammer, David J., “TKO in Las Vegas: Boosterism and the Johnson-Flynn Fight,” New Mexico Historical Review, Vol. 61, No. 4, October 1986: p. 301-318. “…The leader of the campaign was Charles O’Malley, a one-time minor league baseball player and then free-lance scout for the St. Louis Browns. A telephone company worker and later chief of the Las Vegas Fire Department, O’Malley would devote the rest of his life to civic affairs, promoting Las Vegas as a leader of its annual Rough Rider Reunion.”
Charles F. O’Malley was the son of Mary Rosa Burke and Thomas O’Malley.
Mary Rosa Burke was the daughter of Judge Junius Burke, himself the son of an Irish immigrant, and Alexandrine Millet, the daughter of a French Louisiana family.
Thomas O’Malley was an immigrant from Ireland, and all I have been able to figure out is the names of his parents: Ellen MacDermott and Thomas O’Malley.
Sources: Personal knowledge & family stories. Social Security Death Index. Diocese of Baton Rouge Catholic Church records provided by Dwayne Montz. 1880, 1890, 1900, and 1910 Federal Census records for Ascension County, Louisiana and Las Vegas, San Miguel County, New Mexico. Obituary published in the Las Vegas Optic, October 1969