Louis S. "Red" Nelson, 91, former warden at San Quentin, died Saturday in Walnut Creek, Calif.
Born in Delmont, S.D., Nelson served in the Marine Corps in the late 1920s and was a deputy sheriff in Nye County, Nev. He got his first prison experience working as a guard at Alcatraz in the early 1940s. After a Navy hitch during World War II, Nelson returned to prison duty at Alcatraz before joining the State Department of Corrections. In his 26-year career with the department, he was a guard, associate warden and warden at Lancaster, San Quentin, Vacaville and Sacramento prisons.
Nelson was the warden at San Quentin in 1971 when prison revolutionary George Jackson, two other inmates and three guards were killed in an apparent escape attempt by Jackson, one of the Soledad Brothers.
Nelson estimated that he had been present at 75 to 80 executions at San Quentin's gas chamber.
"I believe that if capital punishment deters one person from committing murder, it ought to be kept on the statutes," Nelson said.