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Las Vegas civil rights activist, TV personality William ‘Bob’ Bailey dies

William H. “Bob” Bailey, a Las Vegas television personality, businessman and civil rights activist, died Saturday at age 87.

The longtime Las Vegas resident had battled Parkinson’s disease for 10 years, his family said.

Bailey is known as Las Vegas’ first African-American television personality, having landed roles from the 1950s to the 1970s on local stations as a variety show host, director, producer and newscaster. But his presence in the community was stronger than a face on the screen.

Las Vegas saw the first of Bailey in 1955, when he traveled from New York City to the Silver State to be a part of the opening show for the Moulin Rouge, the first racially integrated hotel-casino in Las Vegas. Not long after that, Bailey and his wife, Anna, decided to settle in Las Vegas.

Bailey was born in Detroit on Feb. 14, 1927, and raised in Cleveland. After finishing high school early at age 16, he signed on to sing with jazz star Count Basie.

He also attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he studied business law, and the School of Radio and Television in New York City

Later in life, Bailey studied real estate and land law at UNLV. He received a doctorate of humane letters at National University in San Diego in 1987.

During his time in Las Vegas, Bailey was active in the civil rights movement and is credited with helping establish equal rights for African-Americans and other minorities.

He worked with former Nevada Gov. Grant Sawyer to investigate discrimination in employment, and was appointed by Sawyer as the first chairman of the state Equal Rights Commission.

Bailey’s investigative work under Sawyer helped to desegregate hotel-casinos under the Nevada Civil Rights Act of 1965.

Bailey was also a businessman whose ventures included the Sugar Hill Lounge and Liquor and the Golden West Shopping Center, both in West Las Vegas. He also helped establish the Nevada Economic Development Corp., which helped minority business owners obtain more than $300 million in funding.

President George H.W. Bush appointed Bailey to serve as deputy director of the Minority Development Business Agency.

His work in the Las Vegas community was recognized in 2006 when the Dr. William H. “Bob” Bailey Middle School, at 2500 N. Hollywood Blvd., was dedicated in his name. The school opened in 2005.

“Education is the light that blinds ignorance,” he was often heard saying.

He was surrounded by his family at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife, Anna; son John R. Bailey; daughter-in-law, Terri; daughter Kimberly Bailey Tureaud; son-in-law, Charles Tureaud; and grandchildren Jonathan Backers, Jordan Bailey, Gabrielle Bailey, Alexandra Bailey and Brandon Tureaud.

Funeral services for Bailey are scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Second Baptist Church, 500 W. Madison Ave.

The family asks that donations to Bailey Middle School be given in lieu of flowers.

Contact reporter Cassandra Taloma at ctaloma@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381.

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