Las Vegas Tribune Staff
Myrna Williams, who served as a longtime Nevada Assemblywoman and Clark County Commissioner, has died. She was 92.
The county said Williams served on the board for 12 years, from 1994 to 2006, representing the east Las Vegas valley.
She served in the Assembly prior to that for 10 years, including six as the Speaker pro Tempore, from 1984 to 1993.
“It’s a sad day for Clark County and the state of Nevada,” Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said in a statement.
“Myrna Torme Williams was a dedicated public servant known for her intelligence, care and concern for working families and her love and passion for Las Vegas.”
Myrna Torme was born in Chicago on August 26, 1929, to a family of Russian-Jewish immigrants. While her mother was born after her family arrived in America, her father, William, called “Bill,”, was a child dancer in Russia who had won dozens of contests and even took lessons from he legendary master of the ballet, Vaslav Nijinsky. Coming to America at the age of eleven, along with his father, mother and two younger brothers, he saw his youngest sibling, sister Faye, who was born in New York, achieve fame as the “Wonder Frisco Dancer” when, almost immediately following the family’s move to Chicago in 1917, at the outbreak of World War I, she became a star performer at war bond rallies.
In Summer 1923, Bill Torme met Betty Sopkin at a wedding reception in the Morrison Hotel and they subsequently married in January 1924, with their first child, son Melvin, arriving in September 1925. In his autobiography, It Wasn’t All Velvet, Melvin, who gained stardom as the recording artist, songwriter and personality, Mel Tormé, recounts that the family surname had originally been “Torma,” but an Ellis Island immigration official inscribed it as “Torme.” Three weeks before his fourth birthday, and two months before the Wall Street Crash of 1929, his mother gave birth to his only sister, Myrna, who, according to him, was named after Myrna Loy, a young silent-screen actress still five years away from becoming a major movie star. He describes young Myrna as an especially pretty baby that, at the age of ten months, developed meningitis and required the removal of a mastoid, which left her with lifelong astigmatism.
In 1934, at the age of five, she, along with Melvin, was enrolled in Chicago’s Shakespeare Grammar School on the city’s South Side and, in 1943, as Melvin, now Mel, was appearing in his first film, Higher and Higher, the family moved to Los Angeles, renting an apartment in the vicinity of the Wilshire Miracle Mile. In 1947, following her 18th birthday, Myrna moved to New York intending to explore a career in the art and/or modeling industry. Six years later, while attending a party, she met musician David Williams and, during a second date, they decided to marry, with the marriage lasting over 50 years, until his
death in January 2006. Williams, born in 1925, played the drums and served as a session musician for a number of top acts, including Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. during the Rat Pack’s performances in Las Vegas.
Although originally intending to return to live in Southern California, Myrna Williams, whose married name made her an even
more-specific namesake of Myrna Loy (birth name Myrna Adele Williams), joined her husband in Las Vegas where, in 1959, he was fulfilling a professional engagement. Finding the area to their liking, they decided to settle there permanently with their only child, daughter Indy.
She earned degrees in social work and law enforcement and social work from University of Nevada, Las Vegas and entered local and statewide politics, being elected in 1984, at the age of 55, to the Nevada Assembly and representing Clark County District 10 until 1995, including six years as Speaker pro Tempore.
In 1994, representing District E, she won election as a Clark County Commissioner, and was re-elected in 1998 and 2002. In her twelve years on the Commission, she served on the following committees and boards: Southern Nevada Water Authority; Las Vegas Valley Water District, chair; Big Bend Water District; University Medical Center of Southern Nevada; Clark County Sanitation District; and State of Nevada Nuclear Projects Commission.
Williams was also the sister of renowned singer Mel Tormé, who died in 1999.
Las Vegas Tribune Staff