By Parker Philpot
There are many residents living in Las Vegas who witnessed or played
an active role in overcoming segregation, economic bias and injustices
that took place before, during and after the Black Civil Rights Era.
Many became a “first” by being the pioneering Black man or woman to
attain certain jobs, levels of advancement or other accomplishments.
They took decisive actions, along with non-Blacks who advocated for
the same progress, to help bring about positive local changes. Because
they collectively acted to end racial discrimination back then, their
offspring and others now enjoy a more interesting, ethnically
inclusive and economically open city to live in and visit.
Throughout Las Vegas Tribune’s Black History Month series on
pioneering Black firsts, many names have been mentioned; among them
are publishers, historians, writers, book titles, historic sites,
African-American museums, educational exhibits, informational tours,
university historic archives, civic organizations and Black business
advocacy groups. They are all great resources for those who
consciously want to expand their knowledge on the subject, and other
useful contacts are available upon request.
Each week of the series, a selection of photographs and other images
were provided for two primary reasons: First, as a way to recognize
residents who helped Las Vegas on its journey from yesteryear’s legal
segregation to parity and inclusion of Blacks in workplaces, schools,
business associations and neighborhoods. Second, but equally
important, the series is provided to encourage a greater interest in
The series also points out that there are many modern-day Black
pioneers working in business, government, politics, academics and a
remarkably wide variety of industries.
One good example of a first-time, notable achievement in a
non-traditional industry is Richelle Shaw. She is a Las Vegas resident
who became the first Black person to own a public utility company when
she purchased a Nevada-based multimillion dollar telephone company
that once employed her.
Through her acclaimed “Million Dollar Bootcamp” seminars, she helps
other business owners expand their outlooks and marketing techniques.
Another local, contemporary pioneer leader is Tony Gladney, a
corporate vice president and a UNLV diversity program first title
holder. Gladney advocates ethnic inclusion in workplaces and helps
gaming corporations and others deal effectively and responsibily with
Native resident Sen. Steven Horsford has a rapidly blossoming career
in politics. He has served as a state committee leader for the
Democratic Party, and he is the first Black person to hold the post of
State Senate majority leader.
He recently became the first Black person to represent Nevada in Congress.
Las Vegas is the Entertainment Capital of the World and known for its
world-class sporting events. One local woman punched right through the
glass ceiling of a traditionally male-dominated field — boxing.
Patricia Morse Jarman, the first African-American woman licensed to
work as an international professional boxing events judge, is a
longtime Las Vegas resident. She has worked steadily for more than 25
years in a field once off limits to any woman of any color.
Some local, Black, first achievers were more private than prominent.
Shedrick McClenton was not a publicly known person over his nearly
four decades of life, nor does his name appear on the pages of
frequently heralded Black firsts.
His acquaintances and neighbors knew him as a hardworking young
husband and father. But it wasn’t until his obituary was printed in
1993 that a large number of people learned about his role in local
Black history: McClenton was the first Black corrections officer in
the state prison system.
History stays alive when its pages are more inclusive. There are still
more Black pioneers to be identified and recognized, and they each
deserve a quiet but powerful place on the list.
Some of the pioneers from the early days of Las Vegas are names that
come up frequently in discussions about the 1940s through the 1970s.
They could not all be listed in this multipart series, nor was that
the intent. Attention is given to some of the lesser-known, unsung and
behind-the-scenes Black firsts.
All of the names and faces are to be forever respected and honored.
They hold unique positions on the timeline of Black progress, and they
are human milestone markers showing the advancement of Las Vegas in
terms of its ethical, economic and enfranchisement issues.
The living legends still hold a vital part of the story that must be
heard and internalized by others who want to avoid reliving injustices
of the past.
Some of the more widely known names of groundbreaking Black first
achievers, who were not mentioned in previous segments of this series,
–James B. McMillan, the first Black dentist in Las Vegas;
–Judge Addeliar D. Guy, Clark County’s first Black chief deputy
–William “Bob” Bailey, Las Vegas’ first Black TV host;
–Louis Conner Sr., the first Black food and beverage director for a
major Las Vegas gaming property;
–James “Jimmy” Gay III, first Black mortician in Las Vegas.
The hope is that Black History Month will heighten the local
community’s collective desire to know more about the Black experience
— locally and beyond — and that the select information in the series
will stimulate discussions across age, gender, race and socioeconomic
The Tribune’s Black History Month tribute also extends to those still
doing the civil rights work for economic parity and legal justice for
Racism of any type is particularly destructive to the spirit of the
victim, as well as to that of the perpetrator. America is a wounded
body, healing from its own self-defeating behavior. Although healing
always happens over time, the regional scars from city to city are
proof of its self-inflicted injury.
The fastest way to recover is by using the ready access to information
in order to ease the communications between the parties affected by
past and residual problems of overt and covert racism. That includes
virtually everyone in some way or another.
Moreover, the demonstrated willingness among community members to
speak together and emote about the past, present and future ensures
that residents can and will increase intergenerational, interracial
wellness on a local and national scope.
Black History — local, U.S. and world — is better when viewed more
broadly, as more than just a 28 or 29-day effort each February. Why
should the deep, rich and often untold history not be kept in focus
every day in order to gain a better perspective on current news
affairs, attitudes and actions of people today? No doubt, it is all
interconnected and inseparable.
History unites people across eras, and it urges each person to learn
more, to know more and to do better, as the sage poet-author Maya
Angelou advises. Anyone who cares about the future of Las Vegas may
look into local history to see some of the mistakes made and then
pledge to steer clear of them.
The legacy of the lively history of Blacks in Las Vegas is seen, felt
and heard every day. Learning history’s lessons is the best way to
honor it. History’s most profound legacy is the responsibility it
wills to future generations.
Better Ask Somebody
Longtime residents have a unique perspective on the events of the
earlier years, and many of them welcome thoughtful inquiries because
they love sharing it with others, including aspiring students,
educators, families and faith-based groups.
There are hundreds maybe even thousands of local residents open to
telling their stories about how they achieved success despite walls of
segregation and bigotry. Many of them would tell young people,
newcomers and others what it took — mentally, emotionally and
spiritually — to carve new openings and create opportunities for
Blacks during that time.
When you meet pioneers, ask them what took place, ask what they
experienced, and ask how they overcame adversity and attacks. Many
pioneers, who helped Las Vegas mature and pushed the valley powers to
go past spite and inequity, are also open to talking about today’s
opportunities and suggesting ways to use recently opened doorways
wisely for everyone’s benefit.
It’s even important to ask about the other sides of the issues: seek
to learn from any renewed person who may have, in some way, caused or
perpetuated unfair conditions. Ask of them how they moved from
aggression or apathy to enlightenment or atonement, bringing about a
spirit of reconciliation and mutual appreciation for each other’s
Hear all viewpoints and vanquish judgment in order to hear clearly,
because there is invaluable information that can potentially propel
any society forward towards equality and peace.
Pioneers of ‘Generation Next’
Some pioneers and Black firsts braved the brunt of race-based bias,
which was sometimes physically brutal and inhumane. Many of them
raised families, and they served as role models in their neighborhoods
and places of worship, while continuing to counter the racism of the
Herman Moody, 80, is a fine example of that remarkable strength and
steadfastness. Moody was the first Black police officer in Las Vegas.
Moody never gave up or gave out when the times were anything but
hospitable for a Black man, because he held the same aspirations for
himself and his family as did his White counterparts.
Moody remained in the original West Las Vegas neighborhood where he
raised his family for more than three decades. His daughter, Hermanell
Moody, who is active in community preservation efforts, talked about
her father in an exclusive telephone interview for this series.
He worked nights and served for more than 30 years, while raising a
family and holding another full-time job in construction, she said.
She recalls that neighbors came to her father for helpful advice when
they had problems with a child’s behavior or had a legal problem.
“Everybody in the neighborhood trusted him,” she said.
The descendents of Black pioneers and Black firsts in local history
are great resource persons to know because they offer first-hand
accounts of how things were in the early days of segregation and overt
bigotry aimed at keeping Blacks “in their place” — literally.
In segregated Southern Nevada, Black police officers were routinely
prohibited from performing official duties outside the boundaries of
the predominantly Black neighborhoods. For example, Black officers
were discouraged from stopping and questioning White motorists passing
through, let alone frisking or apprehending one.
Fortunately, for the safety of all residents and visitors, that policy
went away with desegregation and more assimilation of Blacks into the
ranks of the police department. The progress and racial
barrier-breaking continues today.
Many of the pioneers’ children, grandchildren and subsequent
generations remain in Las Vegas, hold jobs or work in professions that
previously were forbidden to Blacks. Some descendents own their own
businesses in locations where Blacks were historically denied the
chance to reside, work or own businesses.
We could consider them Generation Next — the rightful, immediate
beneficiaries of their ancestors’ struggles — who today make
substantial and mindful contributions to the new and improved Las
Vegas shared by everyone. They move forward with insight, vision and
purpose, driven by their ancestral role models’ lessons of
perseverance with faith and integrity.
There is a lot to be learned from Black mothers and fathers, who
braved local workplace bigotry and, by doing so, became the first to
step up on the ladder of racial equality. They had to make special
efforts to look past their job struggles in order to make home life as
normal as possible for their children and spouses.
Despite frequent degradation and disparate treatment because of their
race, pioneers created and maintained a sense of family and
neighborhood unity. Many of the children of local early-day pioneers
knew each other because of pre-1960s geographic segregation, which
kept a high percentage of the Black population constrained to one
historic part of town called the Westside or West Las Vegas, just
northwest of downtown.
To understand what living through historic, color-based discrimination
in the workplace was like, talk with someone who lived it, such as
now-retired Fire Chief David Washington. He was the first Black hired
for the position.
Furthermore, his and other pioneers’ families had a unique perspective
on history, too. Washington’s wife, Marcia Washington, eventually
joined him in his field when she became a fire inspector after
spending many years as an educator in public service.
Daughter April Washington was affected by her father’s choice to
continue to work in a then-resistant system. Today, she admirably
represents the next generation from a pioneering family, and she is
among the rising group of local Black entrepreneurs.
April Washington wrote and published a life-saving book for children,
promoting fire safety for families. It is called “Fire Safety in the
Her siblings are accomplished in their careers, with at least one
other author, her sister Amber.
During the years when her father was dealing with his job in an
environment of biases and roadblocks to Black achievement in the
industry, she recalls with humor that her greatest childhood worry was
hoping that her father would never “fall off the back of the fire
Series’ End Signals Start
Communication is the best remedy for years of mistrust and societal
missteps. Ideally, Black History Month is a crucial part of the cycle
with its accent on awareness and acceptance, which leads to agreements
towards positive actions and progress.
This month is more than a time set aside to read a running list of
names of Black achievers. It also offers so much more: a chance to be
interactive. One way to start is by asking those who experienced the
history to add life, dimension and tone to the stories recorded on
Reading stories of Black accomplishments, though it’s wonderful that
they are available in print and online — and the Tribune encourages
you to read all four parts in this series — is just one way to learn
about the Black experience.
Black history is happening every day, and whatever takes place in any
neighborhood affects the city, and any events in one community affect
For the well-being of the entire local community, it is crucial that
information relevant to and written about Black-oriented issues flows
freely in order to spark meaningful interracial dialogue, to celebrate
victories and to resolve problems.
The author and the news publisher of this series are grateful for the
support from the community, and the coverage continues beyond Black
* * * * *
Parker Philpot is a Southern Nevada-based journalist, commentator and
writes “From Parker’s Pen,” an online column and can be contacted at