This is the second of three special sections the Review-Journal will publish to mark the millennium and the end of the century that brought Las Vegas into being.
More than a year ago the Review-Journal decided to avoid a mistake made by many communities — letting their history vanish with the old-timers who shaped those communities in their times. "Las Vegas is unusual in that it was created entirely in the 20th century," Publisher Sherman R. Frederick noted in announcing The First 100 project in March 1998. "Many of those who made the important decisions remain alive, while immediate relatives and close acquaintances of others still survive. This gives the Review-Journal a special opportunity to portray them and their accomplishments with authentic detail, which newspapers and historians in other cities would envy."
With that, the Review-Journal committed its staff to a 17-month effort to tell Las Vegas’ story with in-depth profiles of 100 colorful men and women who left their marks in Southern Nevada. Special Projects Editor A.D. Hopkins and writer K.J. Evans, both experienced writers of history, were assigned to the project full time.
KLVX-TV, Channel 10, the educational television station for Las Vegas, joined with the Review-Journal in the effort.
Part I: The Early Years, published in February, dealt with those who made history from the valley’s discovery by explorers until about the onset of World War II. Today the story continues with Part II: Resort Rising, dealing with people who were most active between the early 1940s and late ’60s.
Those in the first section were already dead by the time this project began, but in many cases the Review-Journal was able to find and interview their aging children or people who knew them well. Publication of those stories caused some relatives and friends of those people, previously unknown to journalists and historians, to come forward. Some of those brought with them troves of historic photos, documents, and artifacts, and were referred to the photo archive at UNLV Special Collections, or to the Nevada State Museum. One important historical story already has been published in the Review-Journal, and another is planned, as a result.
Some of those profiled in the second section are still alive, and whenever feasible the Review-Journal writers captured their memories on tape to be deposited in oral history archives at UNLV Special Collections. Two of those profiled, former politician and churchman Berkeley Bunker and James McMillan, a dentist and civil rights activist, died while publication was pending.
As in the first section, deciding which Southern Nevadans to profile was the most difficult task. Nominations were sought from Review-Journal readers as well as journalists and historians. More than 300 individuals were nominated for inclusion in The First 100, and valid arguments could be made for nearly every one of them.
Resources and time limited the effort to 100 people only, so the Review-Journal had to pass over some 200, many just as important and interesting as some of those profiled. Editors bypassed some important people, particularly well-publicized political figures, to write instead about a lesser-known person who led Las Vegas in some entirely new direction. Glaring omissions were the price of varied and original content.
Because such choices were necessary, the Review-Journal does not represent that the 100 chosen are the most important who could have been selected, only that they were significant and interesting. Nor did the editors attempt to rank their importance; they are organized in approximate chronological order of the events in which they played central roles.
The third section, covering people most active during the last three decades, will be published Sept. 12. All The First 100 will be included in a book to be published by Huntington Press of Las Vegas.
Hopkins and Evans are both former editors of Nevadan, a Review-Journal Sunday magazine that specialized in historical pieces and in-depth profiles. Hopkins also asked certain local historians and some of the Review-Journal’s star writers to contribute stories.
Historical consultants for the project were Robert Faiss, former city editor of the Las Vegas Sun and now an attorney specializing in gaming law; Michael Green, a history teacher at Community College of Southern Nevada; Eugene Moehring, a history teacher at UNLV and author of a respected history of Las Vegas; Frank Wright, curator at the Nevada State Museum & Historical Society; and W.V. "Bill" Wright, former chairman of the museum’s board.
W.V. Wright, who was better known for many years as general manager of the Review-Journal until his retirement in 1981, died in August after a short illness. He continued his involvement with The First 100 until a few weeks before his death.
Others who were greatly helpful to the project include the staffs of UNLV Special Collections and the Nevada State Museum & Historical Society; Elizabeth Warren of the Nevada Women’s Archives; and Joanne L. Goodwin, an oral history teacher at UNLV.
The cover, graphics and page layouts were designed by Ched Whitney.
A.D. Hopkins, editor of The First 100 project, is a 30-year resident of Las Vegas and for 12 years edited Nevadan, the Sunday magazine formerly published by the Review-Journal, which frequently explored the sort of community history chronicled here. At the Review-Journal, he is special projects editor, which involves in-depth hard news reporting.
Kenneth J. Evans was a lifelong resident of Nevada, grew up in North Las Vegas, and graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1982 with a degree in journalism. He was a reporter and editor at several rural Nevada newspapers, and was the editor of Nevadan, the Sunday magazine formerly published by the Review-Journal. In 1992, Evans was appointed media relations manager for the Nevada Commission on Tourism, where he served until returning to the Review-Journal early last year to work on The First 100 project.
Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith is a native Nevadan with family roots dating back to 1881. His most recent books are "Las Vegas Boulevard," a column collection, and "The Animal in Hollywood," a biography of Mafia figure Anthony Fiato. In 1998, Smith was honored for column writing by the National Headliner Awards and also was named Outstanding Journalist by the Nevada Press Association. But he says he’d gladly trade the awards for an interview with Moe Dalitz.
Dave Berns has worked for the Review Journal since 1994 and has written about the casino industry for the past three years. He previously wrote for the Statesman-Journal newspaper in Salem, Ore., and is a graduate of the University of Oregon.
John Edwards is a business writer for the Review-Journal, and is writing a book on investing in casino operating companies.
Mike Weatherford grew up in Tulsa, Okla., graduated from the University of Missouri and has been an entertainment reporter for the Review-Journal since November 1987. His love of the old Vegas led to his upcoming book "Cult Vegas," to be published by Huntington Press by the end of the year.