When Maude Frazier Hall was demolished in 2009, Archie C. Grant Hall, the second building constructed at UNLV, became the oldest facility on the campus.
Appropriately enough, Grant was the first University of Nevada regent from Southern Nevada and was one of the strongest voices for the creation of UNLV.
Grant, who was sometimes referred to as A.C. Grant, was born in Ely, Minn., in 1896. He attended college, married and began his career as businessman in Minnesota, but a 1947 Las Vegas Review-Journal article called him “transplanted native son” of Las Vegas.
With a few stops on the way, he came to Las Vegas in 1928 to purchase a Ford dealership. He ran that for 27 years, selling it to George Gaudin in 1955. Grant was involved in management at the Bank of Nevada from 1953 until his death in 1974.
He quickly became a fixture and a booster for the community. He became a member of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce in the early 1930s, eventually becoming the board’s president.
Around the same time, he worked with several Nevada legislators who were writing new laws for legalized gambling. He was credited with helping shape that legislation. He was a member of the State Repeal Convention, which formed in 1933 to repeal prohibition. He also was part of the group that established the annual Helldorado parade.
His successful car dealership and real estate purchases allowed him the free time to become more involved in politics. He ran for governor in 1934, losing in a six-way democratic primary. He ran again in 1954, losing in the primary to former Gov. Vail Pittman, who lost the general election. In between his gubernatorial bids, he served a term in the Nevada Assembly and one in the state Senate.
He became chairman of the Las Vegas Housing Authority when it was created in 1947 and served in that position for 20 years. Archie Grant Park, a public housing development for seniors at 1720 Searles Ave., was built and named in his honor in 1964.
After the war, Grant turned his attention to the town of Basic, which is now Henderson.
“He convinced the government that the buildings that had been used for wartime manufacturing should be turned over to private industry,” said UNLV history professor Eugene Moehring. “He also got the water lines that ran from Lake Mead to Basic to be routed to Las Vegas and helped create the Las Vegas Valley Water District.”
In 1952, Grant ran successfully for the office of University of Nevada regent. This put him in the position to advocate for the creation of UNLV. There was resistance from the north, and the friction between the old established north and the new, rapidly growing south has been a recurring force throughout the history of the school. He succeeded in his efforts, and in 1954, UNLV opened. Grant even helped procure the land on which the campus was built.
The second building was completed in time for the start of classes in 1959 and named for Grant. Most of the classes were shifted there, and Maude Frazier Hall became primarily an administration building. As the campus expanded, discipline-specific buildings became the norm, and at the time of his death, Grant Hall was the education building. It is currently one of the campus’ art buildings.
“UNLV would have happened eventually,” said Michael Green, a longtime College of Southern Nevada professor who recently became an associate professor at UNLV. “It’s reasonable to say that it wouldn’t have happened as quickly without Archie Grant’s efforts. It was a controversial move in the state.”
Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.