Sawyer was the youngest of three sons of Osteopaths Harry W. and Buela Cameron Sawyer. He grew up near Twin Falls. During the Second World War he served in the U.S. Army. He studied at Linfield College in McMinnville (Oregon ), the University of Nevada in Reno and the George Washington University Law School in Washington.
After studying Sawyer was 1950-1958 District Attorney of Elko County. He became a member of the Democratic Party, whose Democratic National Convention he attended in the years 1956, 1960 and 1964 as a delegate. He was also Chairman of the party in 1955 in Nevada. From 1959 to 1967 he was governor of Nevada. During his term started with the racial integration in the schools of the state and established a Civil Rights Commission. In addition, the administration has been reformed. He was instrumental in the introduction of the Black Book. The persons listed therein were allowed to operate a casino not yet entered.
A third term remained unfulfilled as he lost the election to Republican Paul Laxalt. After losing his political office, he and colleagues conducted a law firm that has quickly become the largest Nevada. Ex - Governor Sawyer died in 1996 in Las Vegas. With his wife Bette Hoge he had a child.