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Historic Westside Legacy Park

Historic Westside Legacy Park

Historic Westside Legacy Park

This park, located at 1600 Mount Mariah Drive, opened Dec. 4, 2021, and honors the past and future leaders in the Historic Westside community. Park hours are from 7 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Listen to Introduction to The Historic Westside Legacy Park:

As the Historic Westside continues to grow and change, as all things do, it becomes immensely important for us to learn about - respect - and engage with the stories and experiences of those who came before us. To remember and celebrate those who laid the foundation and tended to the soil that will allow this community to grow well into the future.

The Westside now has a cemented monument to celebrate and honor the legacy of a historic and proud community. The park includes plaques with historic information on honorees, as well as public art throughout. There is also a playground, benches and seating areas.

A - F

A - F

William “Bob” Bailey (Class of 2021)

Listen to William “Bob” Bailey:

Bob Bailey was appointed Nevada's first chairman of the Equal Rights Commission by Governor Grant Sawyer to investigate employment discrimination practices in Nevada. Bailey established the Nevada Economic Development Corporation that assisted minority businesses obtaining more than $300 million in funding. His successes resulted in his appointment, by then-President George H.W. Bush, as the first Presidential appointee from Nevada to serve as associate director of the Minority Development Business Agency.

Anna Bailey (Class of 2021)

Listen to Anna Bailey:

Anna Bailey danced at the Moulin Rouge in the first line of African-American dancers in the city of Las Vegas and in the late 1960s she became the first African-American dancer on the Strip. Prior to making Las Vegas her home with Bob Bailey, Anna’s dance career led her to stages across the United States and Europe. When Bob worked in the Bush Administration, Anna successfully operated the family’s businesses - Sugarhill and The Baby Grand.

Shirley Barber (Class of 2021)

Listen to Shirley Barber:

A dedicated educator, Barber was an innovative elementary school principal, community activist, and Clark County School District Trustee who advocated for equity and accessibility for all. In 1990, Barber was inducted into the Clark County School District Hall of Fame.

Reverend Marion Bennett (Class of 2021)

Listen to Reverend Marion Bennett:

Reverend Marion Bennett served in the Nevada State Assembly, and was pastor of the Zion Methodist Church for more than 40 years. Rev. Bennett served three terms as branch president of the NAACP, worked as a member of the Economic Opportunity Board, and was a chairman of the Nevada Economic Development Company.

Larry Bolden (Class of 2021)

Listen to Larry Bolden:

Bolden served as deputy chief for technical services for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and was the first African-American officer to achieve that rank with the organization. The Metro Police Area Command that watches over the Historic Westside is named for him.

Q. B. Bush (Class of 2022)

Listen to Q. B. Bush:

Q.B. Bush was a pioneer for African-American casino workers. He worked as a craps dealer at the historic Moulin Rouge hotel-casino. Bush owned and operated the first African-American dealing school in Las Vegas, as well as the first federally funded gambling school at the Concentrated Employment Program. After the 1971 Consent Decree, African-American casino workers began to be employed not just in the back-of-the-house but worked in front of the house positions as bartenders, dealers and cocktail servers. Bush trained many of these new dealers and fought for fair wages for dealers on the Westside. Bush was among the first African-American men to work on the Strip.

Hattie Canty (Class of 2021)

Listen to Hattie Canty:

In 1990, Hattie Canty became the first African-American president of the Culinary Workers Union Local 226. In 1991, Canty led a strike of 550 culinary workers from New Frontier Hotel-Casino to protest labor conditions. The strike lasted for more than six years, which was the longest labor strike in American History. Canty helped found the Culinary Training Academy of Las Vegas, which is still open today. The mission of the Academy is “to reduce poverty and eliminate unemployment by providing employability and vocational skills to youth, adults, and displaced workers.”

Rev. Donald Maurice Clark (Class of 2022)

Listen to Rev. Donald Maurice Clark:

Reverend Donald Maurice Clark successfully lobbied Governor Grant Sawyer to begin the integration of Las Vegas – including advocating for African-American workers on the Las Vegas Strip. In the early 1950s, Reverend Clark moved from his native New Orleans to be stationed at Nellis Air Force Base and soon started fighting for equal rights for people on the Westside and North Las Vegas. Clark served as president of the local branch of the NAACP and was chairman of Operation Independence. He worked alongside fellow activists, Dr. James McMillan and Dr. Charles West to continue the fight for equal rights, including advocating for African-American workers on the Strip. In 1984, Reverend Clark was appointed to serve the remainder of Woodrow Wilson’s term as Clark County Commissioner.

Eugene Collins (Class of 2022)

Listen to Eugene Collins:

Eugene Collins, Mr. Collins was involved in establishing the first business incubator in Historic West Las Vegas. During this period, he was actively involved in passing the city of Las Vegas redevelopment plan, was the first African-American president of the Sara Allen Credit Union, and advocated on the committee for constructing West Las Vegas Library. He served as the NAACP President of the Las Vegas Chapter from 1999-2003 and President of the National Action Network (NAN) Las Vegas Chapter from 2001- 2011.

Ruby Collins (Class of 2022)

Listen to Ruby Collins:

Ruby Collins was born in Tallulah, La. Her education was in early childhood education at the College of Southern Nevada where she received a Child Development Associate Credential in 1990. Collins served as a child development associate advisor for the National Association of the Education of Young Children. Her professional journey evolved from a classroom teacher to the executive director of Variety Early Learning Center where, for more than 40 years, she provided childcare for underserved children in the Historic West Las Vegas community. She became an Educational Consultant for the United Way of Southern Nevada with the High Scope Program and served as a board member for the West Ed Laboratory in San Francisco, Calif.. Her many honors include the Black Family Community Award, Neighborhood Excellence Initiative Award, and Women Leadership Council Award.

Louis Conner, Sr. (Class of 2022)

Listen to Louis Conner, Sr.:

Louis Conner, Sr. was a casino porter who became the first African-American executive food and beverage director on the Las Vegas Strip. One of Conner's major professional accomplishments was opening the Seven Seas Seafood Restaurant and Lounge in 1979. During his 40 years of ownership, he was also part owner of the Sentinel Voice Newspaper in North Las Vegas, as well as the Caravan Transportation Services for the elderly.

Cranford Crawford, Jr. (Class of 2022)

Listen to Cranford Crawford, Jr.:

Cranford Crawford, Jr. served in the Nevada State Assembly representing District 7 from 1972-1974. He was involved in the NAACP as a youth advisor and life member and was a charter member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Theta Phi Lambda Chapter. Additionally, Crawford was a two-term NAACP Vice President in the Las Vegas Branch under the presidencies of Attorney Charles Kellar and Eleanor Walker. He was the former president of the Board of Directors of the Las Vegas YMCA and the first African-American to hold that position.

Dr. John Crear (Class of 2021)

Listen to Dr. John Crear:

One of the most honored and respected physicians in Nevada, Dr. Crear was the second African-American family practitioner in the State of Nevada and a founding member of the West/Crear Medical Society, the local chapter of the National Medical Association.

Barbara Crear (Class of 2021)

Listen to Barbara Crear:

Barbara Crear worked the front office of Dr. Crear's practice and was a substitute teacher with the Clark County School District while being active in Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and community service.

Ruby Duncan (Class of 2021)

Listen to Ruby Duncan:

In the late 1960s, Duncan led the Welfare Rights Movement in Las Vegas. She co-founded Operation Life in 1972 to promote welfare reform and to improve the lives of those who lived in West Las Vegas. She served as the executive director of Operation Life from its inception in 1972 until 1990. Operation Life brought a medical clinic, a library, housing and more to West Las Vegas. Ruby Duncan advocates for welfare rights and women’s rights.

John Edmond (Class of 2022)

Listen to John Edmond:

John Edmond was instrumental in building and opening Nucleus Plaza which later led to the construction of the Edmond Town Center, both located on the Westside. Nucleus Plaza impacted the Westside by providing space for and opening businesses that were in-demand, such as grocery stores, clothing stores and a bank. Building and opening these shopping malls, provided opportunities for African-American people to open small businesses.

Huedillard "H.P." Fitzgerald (Class of 2021)

Listen to Huedillard "H.P." Fitzgerald:

Fitzgerald was the first African-American man to graduate from the University of Nevada, Reno. After a 25-year career with the Clark County School District, including serving as the first African-American principal in Nevada, the first school to be built in West Las Vegas in 27 years was named after him in honor of his contributions to education and the community.

Stories from Before the Westside as we Know it

Stories from Before the Westside as we Know it

Listen to Stories From Before the Westside As We Know It:

As early as 1870, the census noted John Howell as one of five people listed in the Las Vegas Valley. Howell was the first black person to live and own land as a rancher and half owner of The Springs Ranch which is now the Springs Preserve(1).

Among the pioneers who contributed to early Las Vegas in 1905 several black people began to make their way to the new town. Some of the more prominent families and individuals included the Lowes, J.R. Johnson, A.B. Mitchells, Tom Harris and Howard Washington. These people began to grow the “colored colony” at the site called Block 17, a particular area of what is now downtown Las Vegas where the National Museum of Law Enforcement and Organized Crime is currently located.

Most black people at the time, much like future migration periods, came to Las Vegas in search of work, particularly on the new railroad. Other black people that did not work on the railroad or in related jobs owned and operated successful businesses such as small food venues, bars, a shoe shine stand, barbershop and boarding houses.

As Las Vegas and the downtown area east of the railroad continued to grow and as more individuals came from various parts of the country, in many cases carrying racist attitudes with them, black residents found themselves increasingly segregated against and were forced west “across the tracks” to an area known as McWilliams Townsite. Black people owned a significant amount of land in the downtown area before being forced to relocate.

J.T. McWilliams was originally hired by Helen J. Stewart, a prominent landowner who was preparing to sell her land to Sen. William Clark in 1902, to survey approximately 2,000-fenced-acres for sale to the S.P., L.A., and S.L Railroad. McWilliams then found an 80-acre adjoining tract and in 1904 established “McWilliams Townsite,” west of the coming railroad line.

African Americans did not find an immediately welcoming environment in McWilliams Townsite. Many of the original residents had already made their way across the tracks to the East by the time black people were pushed there in the late 1920s into the early 30s, however those that remained protested the arrival of the new black residents who had to petition the city to be allowed to move into the area.

It is important to note that the land on which the city we live in, is and was, the land and indigenous home of the Nuwuvi (Southern Paiute) Peoples. In addition, the area we call the Westside also had small communities of Mexican Americans as well as Japanese Americans in an area that was to be wiped out by the construction of Interstate-15.

1. This property is listed on (1) The Nevada State Register of Historic Places, and (2) The National Register of Historic Places. It is listed for its Period of Significance (0-1900) for its history affiliated with pre-historic indigenous cultures through non-native exploration and settlement times.

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G - K

Ida Gaines (Class of 2022)

Listen to Ida Gaines:

Ida Gaines was one of the first African-American employees with Reynold Electric Engineering Company, which operated the Nevada Test Site. She also later served as the regional representative for constituent services in Sen. Harry Reid’s office. She helped people move into employment spaces and blazed a trail for young women of color who would follow in her progressive footsteps.

James Gay III (Class of 2021)

Listen to James Gay III:

Gay was the first African-American to work in an executive capacity of a major hotel casino when hired as Director of Communications at the Sands in 1952. He operated the Jefferson Recreation Center, became the first Black embalmer in the state, and first in the African American community appointed to the Nevada Athletic Commission (Governor Grant Sawyer). Gay served as a member of the Clark County and the State Democratic Central Committees, the board of the NAACP, and 21 years on the executive board of the Culinary Union Workers Local 226. In 1988, Gay was named a Distinguished Nevadan by the Board of Regents. 

Theron Goynes (Class of 2021)

Listen to Theron Goynes:

Theron Goynes became the first African-American elected representative to officially head a government body as Mayor Pro-Tempore of North Las Vegas in September 1981. Goynes was a teacher and later an administrator in the Clark County School District, and was a member of the Economic Opportunity Board.

Naomi Jackson Goynes (Class of 2021)

Listen to Naomi Jackson Goynes:

In 1977, Naomi Jackson Goynes assisted in the revision of the kindergarten curriculum for the Clark County School District. She organized and implemented the first SRA DISTAR Reading, Language and Arithmetic Program in Las Vegas. Over the years, she worked in CCSD as a teacher, assessment team member, Teacher Corps Team Leader, Reading Specialist, high school dean, and assistant principal.

Judge Addeliar Dell Guy III (Class of 2021)

Listen to Judge Addeliar Dell Guy III:

Upon passing the bar, Judge Guy became recognized as many African American firsts - deputy district attorney in Clark County, chief deputy district attorney, and state judge when he was appointed to the bench. Judge Guy was a mentor to many attorneys and as a demonstration of his impact on the Las Vegas community, a school, community center, and veteran’s hospital bear his name. 

J. David Hoggard (Class of 2021)

Listen to J. David Hoggard:

J. David Hoggard was a community activist and executive director of the Economic Opportunity Board of Clark County, overseeing programs such as the Concentrated Employment Program, Head Start, and the KCEP radio station. Hoggard had served in the US Army during World War II prior to becoming one of the first African-American police officers in Las Vegas.

Mabel Hoggard (Class of 2021)

Listen to Mabel Hoggard:

Mabel Hoggard was the first African-American teacher hired by the Clark County School District. She was a community activist and an advocate for the Westside Federal Credit Union. Hoggard was named a Distinguished Nevadan by UNLV, and received honors from the American Red Cross and the NAACP.

John Howell (Class of 2021)

Listen to John Howell:

The first African-American in Clark County to own land, Howell’s property is now part of the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. In the 1800’s, Howell worked with James B. Wilson to raise livestock and plant fruit trees on 320 acres called the Spring Rancho. He arrived in Las Vegas from Tarboro, NC, early enough to be included in the 1870 census.

Lubertha Johnson (Class of 2021)

Listen to Lubertha Johnson:

A former president of the local chapter of the NAACP, Lubertha Johnson was a nurse who worked to expand employment opportunities in Las Vegas. Prior to 1960, when the Strip was still segregated, Johnson and her friends fought against discrimination by staging protests. When Blacks were only allowed to live west of the tracks, Johnson purchased property way outside of the city in Paradise Township and started a small ranch when African-American organizations held meetings and celebrations. 

Charles Kellar (Class of 2021)

Listen to Charles Kellar:

Charles Kellar arrived in Las Vegas as an attorney, but had to fight to be admitted to the State Bar of Nevada once he had passed the exam. He was involved in the Las Vegas NAACP branch, forming close ties with the Reno NAACP. He advocated for equality in education and employment throughout his career. Kellar filed many lawsuits, including one that ultimately led to the desegregation of the Clark County School District. He actively participated in formulating the consent decree of 1971 that opened 12 percent of hotel casino jobs in many categories to Blacks.

Sarann Knight-Preddy (Class of 2021)

Listen to Sarann Knight-Preddy:

A local business and gaming pioneer, Sarann Knight-Preddy was the first African-American woman to hold a Nevada Gaming License. Sarann owned and operated many businesses in West Las Vegas including The People’s Choice Casino, a dry cleaners, and a dress shop. She and her family operated the Moulin Rouge for several years in the 1990s and helped secure its listing on National Register of Historic Places.

A Spiritual Home

A Spiritual Home

Listen to A Spiritual Home:

From the founding of the first black church, Zion Methodist, which was founded in 1917 on the corner of what is now Casino Center Boulevard and Ogden Avenue, places of worship have been a spiritual, social and communal backbone of the Historic West Las Vegas community.

Zion Methodist was the first black church (and first Protestant church) in Las Vegas. Zion Methodist began in Block 17 when Mary Nettles, A.B. “Pop” Mitchell and others successfully petitioned Union Pacific Railroad to donate a parcel of land for a church site at the northeast corner of Second Street and Ogden. Zion Methodist was founded as a non-denominational community church. In the late 1940s the original church was moved by truck across the tracks to a plot of land on G Street and Washington Avenue., where the church planned the construction of a new building that was completed between 1949-1950.

The first church built on the Westside was Pilgrim Church of Christ on D Street and Harrison Avenue. It was built in 1927. Pilgrim was followed by Second Baptist Church and St. James the Apostle Catholic Church, both built in 1942. Through the years there have been a number of spiritual institutions of various denominations, all with their importance to the Westside community no matter how large or small their congregations.

The community core began to slowly dissipate as the black community sought living and professional opportunities outside of the Westside with the formal ending of segregation in the 1970s. As this happened the churches and places of worship remained as a major weekly source of traffic to the neighborhood, while acting as a steward of the legacy and people during periods of time when history and community can be easily forgotten.

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L - S

Dr. Esther Langston (Class of 2021)

Listen to Dr. Esther Langston:

Dr. Langston is recognized as the first African-American social worker in the State of Nevada, as well as the first African-American woman employed at UNLV. She is one of the 12 founders of Les Femme Douze, in 1964, to promote cultural awareness, social graces, and educational scholarships for young women. A teacher and mentor to many during more than 50 years of community activism, Dr. Langston continues to advocate for education and justice.

Marzette Lewis (Class of 2022)

Listen to Marzette Lewis:

Marzette Lewis was an avid fighter for equal rights of African-American children and their families within the Clark County School District. Lewis’ major accomplishments include advocating for West Las Vegas to have a high school. Lewis is responsible for creating the first magnet elementary school in Las Vegas, Mabel Hoggard Math & Science Magnet School. She rallied to end the Sixth Grade Centers Integration Plan that bussed African-Americans out of their neighborhoods for all grades except kindergarten and sixth. Lewis created Westside Action Alliance Korps-Uplifting People (W.A.A.K-U.P.) and Concerned Citizens. She was the president of both organizations, as well as a member of the NAACP Board of Directors, Foster Parents of Southern Nevada Association, and a member of the Attendance Zone Advisory Commission for Clark County.

Dr. Beverly Mathis (Class of 2022)

Listen to Dr. Beverly Mathis:

Dr. Beverly Mathis, taught 17 years, served three years as assistant principal and from 1994 to 2012 served as the principal at Kermit Roosevelt Booker Sr. Elementary School -- a post she held until her retirement from the Clark County School District. In addition, Dr. Mathis has served as an adjunct professor and taught graduate classes at Nova Southeastern University, Southern Utah University and now, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. In 2015, Dr. Mathis received the Lifetime Education Achievement Award from the Public Education Foundation. One of the many boards and committees that Dr. Mathis has been named was her appointment in 2015, by former Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval to the Nevada Spending and Government Efficiency Commission for K-12 Public Education. Dr. Mathis is the proud namesake of the Dr. Beverly Sue Mathis Elementary School – Home of the Mathis Mustangs, established in August 2017.

William McCurdy, Sr. (Class of 2022)

Listen to William McCurdy, Sr.:

William McCurdy, Sr. served as the Constable in the Las Vegas Township. He is an accomplished consultant and has impacted many campaigns, beginning with Grant Sawyer. Since McCurdy was familiar with the political landscape, he has established relationships with State and Federal political leaders. McCurdy was credited with founding the Las Vegas Teen Democratic Club West to mentor and encourage youth participation in local politics. He is a mentor at the Boys and Girls Club.

Dr. James McMillan (Class of 2021)

Listen to Dr. James McMillan:

Dr. James McMillan was the first African-American dentist in Las Vegas, and the first Nevada dentist to introduce dental implants into his practice. He became the president of the Las Vegas chapter of the NAACP, and helped to overturn Jim Crow laws in Nevada. Dr. McMillan helped to establish the local Black Chamber of Commerce, later serving as president of the chapter and served on the Clark County School Board.

Daisy Miller (Class of 2021)

Listen to Daisy Miller:

A teacher, mother and philanthropist, Daisy Miller took the concept of neighborhood parenting to another level, living by the African proverb that "it takes a village to raise a child." Miller graduated from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and worked for the Economic Opportunity Board as a family planning coordinator, before being employed at the Clark County School District as a teacher, counselor, and later an administrator.

Detective Herman Moody (Class of 2021)

Listen to Detective Herman Moody:

Detective Herman Moody, Las Vegas’ first African-American career police officer, served on the city of Las Vegas Police Department, and later with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for a total of 31 years. He worked in patrol, traffic, larceny, vice/narcotics and the fugitive detail, all while mentoring hundreds of officers, including Deputy Chief Larry Bolden. 

Henry Moore, Sr. (Class of 2022)

Listen to Henry Moore, Sr.:

Henry Moore, Sr., was one of the first African-American teachers at the Historic Westside School. Notably, Moore was credited with introducing black history in the curriculum. His students became professionals in law enforcement, fire services, the legal field, future educators, judges and architects. Moore was also a founding member of the Westside School Alumni Association and lifelong board member. In 1988 he spearheaded the reunion of more than 1,500 Westside School students in a three-day event!.

Harvey Munford (Class of 2022)

Listen to Harvey Munford:

Harvey Munford's work in the Nevada Legislature has contributed to an improved quality of education for the entire local community. Munford influenced the passage of numerous bills, particularly Assembly Bill 234, which enacted provisions related to multicultural education. The impact of this and other bills put forth by Munford were extremely important for the community, because these policies put the framework in place that urges school districts to make multicultural education a priority. The service Munford gave to the State of Nevada has paved the way to the revitalization of the Historic Westside of Las Vegas and teaching multicultural education in K-12 schools.

Senator Joseph M. Neal Jr. (Class of 2021)

Listen to Senator Joseph M. Neal Jr.:

In his 32 years in the Nevada State Senate, Sen. Joe Neal was a voice for Las Vegas’ poor and working class. He was the First African-American elected to the Nevada State Senate, and helped lead the way on public safety improvements in commercial buildings following the deadly MGM fire in 1980. Neal pushed for the expansion of Nevada’s library system, and called attention to police and sentencing reform. Senator Neal was referred to as “The Westside Slugger” for his political determination.

Claude and Stella Parson (Class of 2022)

Listen to Claude and Stella Parson:

Claude H. Parson Jr. was the coordinator of integrated bussing for the Clark County School District. He was also one of the first African-American teachers to instruct white students in Clark County. Stella Mae Mason Parson was the first African-American woman to graduate from any college in the state of Nevada. In 1965, Claude and Stella founded the Vegas View Church of God in Christ. To date, more than 60 ministries have been birthed out of this church which is known for its community events and activism. Vegas View served the community by opening a thrift shop, food bank, bookstore, daycare center, computer lab and Bible College. Their upwardly mobile Church of God in Christ created tutorial programs, youth programs, homeless ministry, prison ministry and a drug and alcohol recovery program.

Commissioner William Pearson (Class of 2021)

Listen to Commissioner William Pearson:

Las Vegas's first black city council member, Commissioner William Pearson helped bring the first library to West Las Vegas.

Maggie Pearson (Class of 2021)

Listen to Maggie Pearson:

Maggie Pearson is known for being a charter member of The Links Las Vegas chapter, a volunteer organization committed to enriching, sustaining and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African-Americans. 

Dr. Anthony and Diane Pollard (Class of 2022)

Listen to Dr. Anthony and Diane Pollard:

Dr. Anthony and Diane Pollard, establishers of the Rainbow Medical Centers and Rainbow Dreams Educational Foundation (Rainbow Dreams Academy). The foundation was founded in hopes of creating a better Las Vegas community by offering medical care and education services free of charge for those who need it the most. Dr. Pollard and Diane also established an annual Las Vegas Juneteenth Festival, which brings African-American  culture to the forefront of the Las Vegas community. In 2009, Diane received the Governor’s Points of Light Award, the highest award bestowed by the State of Nevada with the purpose of inspiring individuals who make a positive impact in the lives of people.

Lou Richardson (Class of 2021)

Listen to Lou Richardson:

In 1978 Lou Richardson founded his namesake company Richardson Construction Inc. His company helped build the West Las Vegas community with projects that encompass churches, libraries, community centers, fire stations, schools, parks and public art. His contribution to the Historic Westside Las Vegas’s built environment includes the Doolittle Senior Center, Pearson Community Center, Ruby Duncan Manor and more.

Vicki Richardson (Class of 2021)

Listen to Vicki Richardson:

Vicki Richardson is president and a founder of Left of Center Art Gallery, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization located in the city of North Las Vegas, focusing on education through the arts, mentoring emerging artists and engaging the community. She taught art in the Clark County School District for 18 years.

Reverend Jesse Scott (Class of 2021)

Listen to Reverend Jesse Scott:

One of southern Nevada’s most influential and effective civil rights advocates, Rev. Scott served as executive director and later president of the local chapter of the NAACP. Rev. Scott also headed the Nevada Equal Rights Commission in the 1970s, focusing on improving minority hiring at Strip hotels.

Eva Simmons (Class of 2022)

Listen to Eva Simmons:

Eva Simmons served the community as a social worker for a brief period before entering the teaching profession in the Clark County School District. She taught for 10 years and then worked over 27 years as a Clark County School District administrator. She served as an administrative coordinator for Title I, an elementary school principal, director for employee management relations and chief negotiator on behalf of the school district with the various employee bargaining unions. Simmons distinguished herself by serving as the affirmative action officer, where she increased the diversity in the administrative ranks in the Clark County School District and mentored numerous females to become school district administrators.

Dr. Lonnie Sisson (Class of 2022)

Listen to Dr. Lonnie Sisson:

In 1972, Dr. Lonnie Sisson was the first African-American to be licensed in Nevada to practice optometry. He worked in the field until retirement in 2002. Dr. Sisson provided eye care to Westside indigent patients while serving as clinic director of the Operation Life Community Health Center. He chaired the Clark County Planning Commission (1972-1980) where he worked to assure improvements were made in his community, such as enhancements to streets (particularly West Lake Mead Boulevard) and building of the Westside Library. Meanwhile, he served as the director of American Society of Planning Officials, Vice-President of the Nevada Public Health Association and was appointed to the Nevada State Council on Children and Youth. He was also an active member of the NAACP and was involved in recruiting minority medical students in an attempt to encourage these students to remain in Nevada.

Dr. William W. Sullivan (Class of 2021)

Listen to Dr. William W. Sullivan:

Associate Vice President for Retention and Outreach and Executive Director at UNLV's Center for Academic Enrichment and Outreach, Dr. Sullivan has directed the TRIO, GEAR UP, and equity programs at UNLV since 1978. Under the direction of Dr. Sullivan, these programs have assisted low-income and first generation students in achieving their educational dreams.

The Westside: A Place to Live and Learn

The Westside: A Place to Live and Learn

Listen to the The West Side: A Place to Live and Learn:
Built in 1922, Las Vegas Grammar School Branch No. 1(1) was opened to serve the population west of the railroad tracks. In 1948 the school was expanded to accommodate what had been an influx from one of the “Great Migrations” from small southern towns as black people came west seeking wartime jobs and better living conditions. Today the school, now known as the Historic Westside School is the oldest remaining school house in Las Vegas, located at Washington Avenue and D Street.

Early housing options in the neighborhood included boarding houses such as Harrison’s Guest House(2) that first opened in 1933 as a place to stay for black entertainers and others who were not welcome in segregated downtown Las Vegas. Other residents who operated small boarding houses or apartments included the Moody House apartments as well as Shaw’s apartments and others.

The black population (as well as general population) in Las Vegas saw some of its most rapid growth in the early 1940s with the growth of the war industries, notable among these being Basic Magnesium Incorporation, where essential war items were manufactured. Many of the black employees here were recruited from Fordyce, Arkansas and Tallulah, Louisiana, which stand as early major drivers of the African American population in Las Vegas.

As new residents began to populate West Las Vegas, they were welcomed by family into their home or other small individually-operated boarding apartments and houses while they got settled. With the addition of many new middle class families in the late 1940s and early 1950s new housing was needed for the influx. Among these early offerings included Berkley Square among others. In 1954 the Berkley Square Historic District(3), the first “middle class” housing in the area, was designed and built by pioneering African American architect Paul Revere Williams. In addition to Berkley Square, Williams designed both Highland Square and Carver Park (housing built for black workers at Basic Magnesium in Henderson, not in the Westside).

1. This building is listed on (1) The city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register, (2) The Nevada State Register of Historic Places, and (3) The National Register of Historic Places. It is listed for its Period of Significance (1922-1967), including the original 1922 Modest Mission Revival Style of the school and for its educational and ethnic heritage importance, specifically, “It was the school for the black citizens; enabling many to obtain a basic education and/or go on to secondary educational facilities.”
2. This building is listed on (1) The city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register, (2) The Nevada State Register of Historic Places, and (3) The National Register of Historic Places. It is listed for its Period of Significance (1942-1960) when the house catered to Black entertainers, divorce-seekers and others, and for its ethnic heritage importance, specifically, “The important role it played in the ethnic heritage of Blacks and in the history of the entertainment of Las Vegas.”
3. This neighborhood is listed on (1) The city of Las Vegas Historic Property Register, and (2) The National Register of Historic Places. It is listed for its Period of Significance (1954-1958), specifically the Contemporary Style Ranch houses designed by African-American architect Paul R. Williams, as well as “The role the subdivision played in the redevelopment of Las Vegas’ Westside and housing for the African-American community leading up to the Civil Rights Era, and for being the first minority-built subdivision in the State of Nevada.”
T - W

T - W

Odis “Tyrone” Thompson (Class of 2022)

Listen to Odis “Tyrone” Thompson:

Odis “Tyrone” Thompson, was first appointed to the Nevada State Legislature by the Clark County Commission on April 16, 2013 and was later elected by his constituents to continue representing Assembly District 17 in 2014 and 2016. During the 79th Legislative Session in 2017, he served as the chairman of the Education Committee where he and his colleagues strived to ensure every student had the resources and opportunities to a quality education. He was also a member of the Judiciary and Health & Human Services Committees.

Helen Toland (Class of 2021)

Listen to Helen Toland:

Helen Toland served as the first African-American female school principal in the Clark County School District. She worked at Kit Carson elementary which has since been renamed after her. She continues her work in education through The Helen Toland Foundation.

Roosevelt Toston (Class of 2022)

Listen to Roosevelt Toston:

Roosevelt Toston was the first African American male to present the news on local television. Roosevelt Toston was born in Epps, LA, and earned his associates degree from Clark County Community College. He spent over 28 years as a sales and marketing executive for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

David and Marcia Washington (Class of 2022)

Listen to David and Marcia Washington:

David Washington has been a Nevada resident since 1956. He began his career as a firefighter in 1974. In 2001, he became the first African American fire chief for the city of Las Vegas. After 33 years of public service, he retired from Las Vegas Fire and Rescue. He was an active member in many community organizations: I have a Dream Foundation, Camp Anytown, Camp Brotherhood/Sisterhood, Communities in Schools, The United Way of Southern Nevada, Metropolitan Police Multi-Cultural Committee, The Community Development Programs Center of Nevada, The Carl Holmes Executive Development Institute, The Economic Opportunity Board of Clark County, Metro Fire Chiefs, International Association of Black Professional Firefighters, and Black Chief Officers Committee.

Marcia Washington has been a resident of Las Vegas since 1968. She worked for the Clark County School District for 25 years and later worked for the Clark County Fire Department as a fire inspector until retirement in 2008. Her community involvement includes many boards and memberships: The Las Vegas NAACP, the city of Las Vegas Community Development Block Grant Board, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, the Las Vegas Natural History Museum, and the Women’s Democratic Party of Clark County. She was elected and served on the Nevada State Board of Education for eight years. She was also appointed and served as Nevada State Senator, District 4, from March 2019 to November 2020. Above all, Marcia is the proud mother to April, Vernon, Angel, and Amber.

Dr. Charles I. West (Class of 2021)

Listen to Dr. Charles I. West:

Dr. Charles West was Las Vegas’ first African-American medical physician, and the first black medical doctor in Nevada. Dr. West served in World War II as a field surgeon, and in 1954 moved his family to Las Vegas and started the first Black newspaper in the state - The Voice. Dr. West was a pioneer for civil rights in his community, revitalizing the Nevada Voter’s League and becoming a key figure in local activism.

Brenda Williams (Class of 2021)

Listen to Brenda Williams:

Brenda Williams has the distinction of being the first black female appointed to the Las Vegas City Council as Interim City Councilwoman in Ward 5, and the first black female member of the Las Vegas Planning Commission. Mrs. Williams is the founder of the Westside School Alumni foundation, and a leading force behind the award-winning book, 'Westside School Stories: Our School, Our Community, Our Time (1923-1967)”. The Westside School Alumni Foundation played a significant role in the revitalization and renovation of the historic Westside School.

Monroe Williams (Class of 2021)

Listen to Monroe Williams:

Monroe Williams was one of the two first African-American Firemen for the city of Las Vegas, and in 1982, rose to the rank of fire captain. Williams was involved in local activism through the NAACP, the Clark County Democratic central committee, and the Clark County School District Integration Committee. 

Woodrow Wilson (Class of 2021)

Listen to Woodrow Wilson:

Woodrow Wilson was the first African-American Nevada State Assemblyman and was appointed chairman of the Nevada State Advisory Committee for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1957. He was instrumental in the passage of the Nevada Fair Housing Bill and was the primary founder of the Westside Credit Union. During his career in the state assembly and beyond, Wilson was an advocate for welfare reform, anti-discrimination regulations, and housing equality.  

Dr. Linda Young (Class of 2022)

Listen to Dr. Linda Young:

Dr. Linda Young was the first African American to serve as president of the Clark County School District Board of Trustees. She a nationally certified school psychologist and is currently the President of the Village Foundation, LJP. From 2009-2020, she served 12 years on the Clark County School District Board of Trustees representing District C. Some of Dr. Young’s recent honors and awards include: The City of Las Vegas 2022 African American Trailblazer Educator Award, February 2021 My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Awards and the February 2021 Outstanding Advocate Award from the National Association of School Psychologists.

Driving Political and Social Change

Driving Political and Social Change

Listen to Driving Political and Social Change:
The African American population in Las Vegas dealt with both institutional and social racism from the very beginning of the city, mirroring the broader African American experience in the United States of America, complete with a full regalia Ku Klux Klan parade on Fremont Street in 1925.

As Las Vegas grew (and racial segregation intensified), African Americans formed a number of political groups to increase power and representation as well as social groups to bring the community together in various ways; from the Citizens Labor Protection Association formed in 1932, with its goal to “promote...the economic, moral and spiritual rights...and to act with the different organizations to assist in the up-lift of depression,” to Les Femmes Douze founded in 1964 and their work with high school aged young women.

Other notable social and political groups include the Roosevelt Democratic Club (1932), The Las Vegas Colored Progressive Club, the Elks, Prince Hall Masons, the Divine Nine, Poor People Pulling Together, Operation Life among various and equally important others throughout the years.

Just as elsewhere in the United States, the NAACP played an important role in fighting for the rights of Black people in West Las Vegas. The local Las Vegas NAACP chapter was initially founded in 1928. The five NAACP Las Vegas chapter founders included Mary Nettles, Arthur McCants, Clarence Ray, Zimme Turner and William (Bill) Jones.

In the 1960s the NAACP was engaged in a fight over integration and improved living standards for black Las Vegans. The Las Vegas Strip was to be integrated beginning on March 26, 1960 with the establishment of the “famed” Moulin Rouge agreement which was a verbal agreement made between casino owners, local politicians and representatives of the black Las Vegas community to end segregation in Las Vegas. While there were some concessions made by local government after this agreement (which only resulted from threats of public protest), in reality by the end of the 1960s little had changed.

While the agreement did work to ease some racial tension, as time went on it became clear that little had changed for Las Vegas’ broader black community. Unanswered conditions, among a host of others (notably the regular “rioting” that took place at Rancho High School throughout the late 1960s into the early 1970s), ultimately led to a 3-4 day rebellion in October of 1969. In response to the rebellion the police barricaded entrances to the Westside neighborhood and imposed a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. for the four days of the disturbance.

In March of 1971 women from West Las Vegas staged the march on the strip that had been threatened by the NAACP and others many times over the years. The Clark County Welfare Rights Organization was a group of black women with advisors and allies in the background who fought to improve the lives of their children and themselves. The local group was part of the broader national Welfare Rights Movement. On March 6, 1971 the Welfare Rights women, led by Ruby Duncan staged a march on the Las Vegas strip of more than 6,000 people. The march had an impact on casino revenues as many of the strip establishments locked their doors as the march went along prior to their ending up at Caesars Palace. A number of celebrities and well-known activists joined the Las Vegas women including Jane Fonda, Ralph Abernathy and George Wiley. The ladies from the Clark County Welfare Movement eventually went on to establish the nonprofit organization Operation Life.

In 1971 a consent decree initiated by NAACP attorney Charles Kellar alleged a number of violations in Las Vegas of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Stipulated terms of the decree stated that signatories adhere to 12 percent of all jobs in the resorts industry would go to black individuals. 
Where Community and Entertainment Come Together

Where Community and Entertainment Come Together

Listen to Where Community and Entertainment Come Together:
Jackson Street Commercial District in many ways was the economic lifeblood of the Westside community. From small businesses like dry cleaners, restaurants, barbershops and beauty shops to entertainment venues like the Town Tavern, Club Louisiana, the Cotton Club, Brown Derby and others, Jackson Street was the hub of a vibrant self-sustained community.

By 1947, Black entertainers were common on stages in Las Vegas, with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Lena Horne, Louis Armstrong and Arthur Lee Simpkins appearing. By the end of the 40’s such stars as Billy Eckstine, Hazel Scott, the Mills Brothers, Nat King Cole, Pearl Bailey and the Inkspots appeared in venues in segregated Las Vegas, however they had to stay on the Westside, usually at a boarding house.

In 1955 the first integrated hotel casino in Las Vegas opened its doors. This hotel casino happened to be located on the Westside as segregation was still firmly in place. The famed Moulin Rouge Hotel & Casino(5) opened in May 1955 to great reception and fanfare with excellent entertainment offerings. However, the Moulin Rouge was only able to last for six months until November 1955. After the Moulin Rouge closed, the entertainment venues on the Westside with Jackson Street in particular, had a small renaissance of their own with the attention and excitement generated by the Moulin Rouge spreading further into the Westside.

With the broader city leaving the Westside to its own devices, zoning as we think of it was not as strictly (if at all) enforced. So many of the residents of the neighborhood both operated businesses and boarding spaces on the same property as their homes. Engaging in the “live/work” trend long before its renaissance in our current time.

One aspect of the physical segregation of West Las Vegas was the development of a vibrant and self-contained community with all of the businesses and services the residents needed. From the Baker Store to Western Cab Company, all of the goods and services required for a vibrant community were available. Restaurants and entertainment venues kept Jackson buzzing 24/7 just like the broader Las Vegas the Westside is a part of.

5. This building is listed on (1) The City of Las Vegas Historic Property Register, and (2) The National Register of Historic Places. It is listed for its Period of Significance (May 24, 1955) for being the first racially integrated Hotel & Casino in the United States, and its Period of Significance (March 26, 1960) for being the site where a Civil Rights Agreement was signed to desegregate all casinos on the Las Vegas Strip. [Please note that the building suffered significant damage as the result of a series of fires between 2003 and 2006, and was demolished in 2010. However, the property itself remains listed on the historic registers].
2023 Honorees

2023 Honorees

These 2023 Historic Westside Legacy Park Honorees will be inducted during the 2023 Juneteenth holiday:

Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams became the first African American to be elected to the Clark County Commission in 1972. Prior to that position, he served as North Las Vegas city councilman in 1969. Throughout his political career, he was a champion for fair housing and equal opportunity rights. As a county commissioner, he served on the Board of Health, Gaming Control Board, Airport Authority and the Library Board. 

Alice Key

Alice Key was a dancer, journalist, community activist and political leader. She spent years as executive director of the local NAACP, as well as with the Clark County Economic Opportunity Board. She also worked with the Nevada Committee for the Rights of Women, which educated women about birth control and fought for abortion law reform in Nevada. Alice spent a decade as Deputy Labor Commissioner for the State of Nevada. 

Omiyale Jube (Anika Johnson Cunningham)

Omiyale Jube has been an educator and administrator in the Clark County School District for more than 30 years, and retired as principal of Jo Mackey Magnet School. Omiyale is committed and dedicated to serving the Las Vegas community as an educator and community activist by bringing awareness to and infusing Afro-Centric culture throughout the State of Nevada. 

Claude Perkins, Ph.D.

President Emeritus of Virginia Union University Claude Grandford Perkins earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Mississippi Valley State University, a Master of Arts degree from Purdue University in Economics, and a Ph.D. from Ohio University.  He became the first African American school superintendent in the state, where he oversaw the desegregation program of the Clark County School District. He served as the State of Nevada Secretary of Commerce, assistant superintendent of secondary education, and Deputy Superintendent of Richmond Public Schools. Dr. Perkins was a tenured professor and founding director of Educational Leadership at Clarion University. He later sat as dean and associate vice president of Academic Affairs at Albany State University in Georgia.  

E. Lavonne Lewis

Elsie Lavonne Lewis, a 50-year resident of Las Vegas, is the director of Business for The Salvation Army Clark County. She worked for EG&G, Inc. as corporate vice president of Human Resources. Ms. Lewis serves on several boards, including the Las Vegas Clark County Urban League and Silver State Health Exchange. She served in numerous leadership roles, including chair of the Nevada Cosmetology Board, chair of the city of Las Vegas Civil Service Board, treasurer of the Economic Opportunity Board, vice chair of the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, and board member of the Silver State Health Exchange.

Franklyn G. Verley III

Franklyn G. Verley III served as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, worked at the New York Times and city of Las Vegas Department of Parks and Recreation. Franklyn developed Like It Is Radio, which provided him an opportunity to speak truth to power and create community events, such as Kemet In The Desert, Men Who Cook, and Emancipation Circle. Part of the renowned Breakdown Crew, Franklyn is the recipient of several honors, including membership in the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, Fountain of Hope Community Activism Award and the NAACP Legacy Builder Award.

Hannah M. Brown

Hannah Brown was the first African American and female station location manager for Western Airlines and later Delta Airlines. In 1999, she was elected president of the Urban Chamber of Commerce (UCC), a position she held for eight years. In 2007, the UCC Board of Directors named Ms. Brown its first president emerita, in recognition of her 10 years of service. In 2009, the UCC created a nonprofit corporation, which was named The Hannah Brown Community Development Corporation in her honor.

Jackie Brantley

Jackie Brantley, born and raised in Las Vegas, has pioneered the way for professional African American women in Las Vegas. She worked in Publicity and Promotions at the Desert Inn as one of the earliest African American professionals on the Las Vegas Strip.

Lucille Bryant

Lucille Bryant received her Associate of Arts degree in Social Sciences and certificates for Hotel Security and Front Office Cashier from Clark County Community College. Her work at Zion Methodist Church included program director and teacher, coordinator of Children Ministries, member of the Parsonage Committee, Administrative Board, Department of Education, Pastor Parish Relations, and United Methodist Women. Bryant served as president of the Senior Usher Board for 41 years, and instructor and director of the children's choir for 20 years.

Mary Wesley

Mary Wesley was part of the Welfare Rights movement locally and engaged in the statewide lobbying effort for increased benefits for women and children. She was instrumental in establishing Operation Life, designed to create housing, jobs, WIC benefits, medical services, nutritious food, and educational opportunities for low-income families.

Reverend Dr. Sylvester S. Roger

Reverend Dr. Sylvester S. Roger attended the Clark County Community College of Southern Nevada, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, the American Baptist Theological Seminary, Bethany College of Nevada, and The Sacramento Theological Seminary and Bible College. He was seminar leader of the National Congress for Christian Education for 24 years and holds a doctorate in Theology and Counseling. He worked for the Clark County School District as a Human Relations counselor for 16 years, as well as a pastor with the Metropolitan Police Gang Force and Safe Village/OLP for gang victims.

Robert Fortson

Robert Louis Fortson was the first black high school student in the Carpentry Pre-Apprentice Program where he graduated with honors. As a master carpenter, he was an instructor at the Clark County Community College. He also taught carpentry and architecture at Vo-Tech High School and mathematics at Clark County Community College. In 1967, Robert started his own company, R. L. Fortson Construction, and was responsible for constructing many homes, buildings, and churches in the Historic Westside, such as Ruben Bullock’s Westside Story, Second Baptist, Zion Methodist, Pentecostal Temple, and Victory Missionary Baptist. He served on the Las Vegas Redevelopment Committee, acted as director of Nev-Cal Builder’s Inc., and as a member of the National Association of Minority Contractors.

Sam Smith

Sam Smith, high school class valedictorian, served in the Vietnam War 1965-1967. He later joined the New York Police Department until retirement in 1974, the same year he graduated from Richmond College. Following his career in law enforcement, he worked for 22 years with the Clark County Fire Department as a fire inspector. Sam was instrumental in the recruitment of many Westside blacks to the Las Vegas Fire Department. He also owned a bookstore where he taught aspects of the U.S. black experience to many young people in the Westside neighborhood. He retired as the deputy fire marshal.

Sammie "Sam" Armstrong

Sam Armstrong moved to Las Vegas in 1962 and assisted his brother in managing the service station Chief Cutem Price in historic West Las Vegas. He was the first person of color hired at Pepsi-Cola Company as a lineman and was then promoted to water treatment specialist. Later he worked for the Clark County School District, transporting students with disabilities. In 1975, Sam partnered with Douglas Ray McCain and founded Ray & Ross Transport, Inc., a small minority-owned business providing bus transportation services to the Nevada Test Site and throughout the Las Vegas valley. Ray & Ross Transport grew to become the largest black-owned business in Nevada. 

Getting the Word Out + From Then to Now...and Beyond

Getting the Word Out + From Then to Now...and Beyond

Listen to Getting the Word Out + From Then to Now...and Beyond:

Getting the Word Out

Before the internet age, newspapers played an essential role in keeping communities informed of necessary information both in their immediate home and in the broader African American diaspora. In this way Las Vegas, and the Westside in particular, is no different.

The first black newspaper in Las Vegas was Las Vegas Voice which was started by Dr. Charles West. The Voice has had a long and storied history in the Westside as it survived for decades under different names and leadership - known over the years as the Sentinel Voice and the Sentinel.

Newspapers were an essential source of information for Westside residents, especially early Westside residents, as a way to keep informed about what is going on in West Las Vegas and in some instances to stay connected to the broader African American community. Community members tell stories of distributing the legendary Chicago Defender newspaper in early West Las Vegas alongside locally published works that were tied to institutions such as the church like The Crusader and The Final Call.

In addition to newsprint, the legacy of homegrown media on the Westside includes television and radio as well. Nevada’s first all black television show was produced in West Las Vegas. Alice Key and Bob Bailey began “Talk of the Town” in 1955, a regular hour long program that appeared on Channel 8. The show ran for several months and included guests such as Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Billy Ekstine and Billy Daniels.

There have been radio programs throughout the years with the longest running among them being 88.1. Originally launched in 1972, Power 88 is owned by the Economic Opportunity Board (EOB) of Clark County, one of 12 community action agencies in Nevada that originally opened in 1965.


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