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Educator likeliest namesake for North Las Vegas street


Clifford J. Lawrence, Lawrence Street’s likeliest namesake, spent 22 years as an educator in the Las Vegas Valley.

The Spanish Fork, Utah native took his first job as a teacher in 1955, one year out of the Air Force.

A 2012 View Neighborhood Newspapers article reports that Lawrence took a promotion to principal, then Clark County deputy superintendent, before bouncing upstate to take a position as head of the Carson City School District.

He returned south in 1982, when he joined the Rotary Club, sat on the board of local charities and advised the Junior League of Las Vegas.

All along, he served as a father figure to Karen Phillips, the principal who opened Lawrence Junior High School, 4410 S. Juliano Road, in 1999.

“He was my mentor and very much like a father to me after mine passed away,” Phillips told View. “Whatever I would do, before I did it, I would run it past him. It was wonderful to have him be a part of the school.”

Lawrence, who said he would have preferred his name be attached to a school nearer his home in Spanish Trail, nevertheless spent a lot of time at the school.

Phillips said Lawrence made contributions to the school’s time capsule and helped her pitch the school to prospective students.

Five years after Lawrence’s death from bladder cancer, current school principal Bevelyn Smothers said the school still gives out a Clifford J. Lawrence Award.

Lawrence’s family also gives out a $1,000 scholarship to one college-bound Lawrence Junior High graduate each year.

“He was just absolutely thrilled that he would be considered for (the school’s name),” Phillips said. “It meant a lot to him to be recognized for his dedication to education and kids.

“Kids knew he was a real person, not just a name.”

It’s hard to say for sure whether the late educator also lent his surname to Lawrence Street, the 2½-mile stretch of North Las Vegas asphalt between Losee Road and North 5th Street.

Clark County property records don’t reveal much about Lawrence Street’s history — and don’t unveil a specific road dedication record — but date the lion’s share of development along the road to the early 2000s.

City of North Las Vegas spokeswoman Chrissie Coon didn’t know offhand when the road was named or for whom. She did not return requests for further comment.

Clark County Museum Administrator Mark Hall-Patton said it seems likely the city would have named the stretch for one of its most prominent community members and educators right around the same time Lawrence was handed the same honor at a local middle school.

But in his experience, guessing at government officials’ street-naming motivations can be a fool’s errand.

“One possibility is (County Commissioner) Lawrence Weekly. That popped into my mind,” Hall-Patton said, “but when you look at the streets nearby — Bruce (Street), Donna (Street), Harold (Street) and Ann Road — they’re all first names.

“That makes me think, and I’ve seen things like this before, that they just named (Lawrence) and the rest of those streets after whoever was in the office that day.”

Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter James DeHaven at jdehaven@viewnews.com or 702-477-3839.

 

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