Nevada Public Radio Listen Live

"BBC World Service"
Facebook Twitter Follow Nevada Public Radio

Support Nevada Public Radio
January 27, 2015
Nevada Yesterdays

Frank Wright...
Las Vegas Treasure

Bookmark and Share

By Lamar Marchese

Frank Wright
Frank Wright (1938-2003)
Las Vegas Review Journal

My good friend and noted Nevada historian Frank Wright died last Friday. He was a teacher, museum curator, researcher, writer, preservationist, piano player, historian, husband, father and grandfather. He owned a luxurious moustache that he hid behind as an unassuming observer of the foibles and missteps and occasional triumphs that make up local history. His most defining characteristic was his deep felt belief in the value of the a town that regularly celebrates destroying what little of it we have left.

He came to Las Vegas 35 years ago to teach at UNLV and later worked at the Nevada State Museum as curator of education. He got his academic education in Utah and his street smarts from spending several years as the hotel manager at Binion's Horseshoe where he learned the peculiar ways of gamblers and ruthless self made casino moguls.

In 1987 Frank became the researcher and writer of Nevada Yesterdays, a once weekly vignette of interesting moments in Nevada history on KNPR. He combed the archives of the state museum to come up with nuggets of interesting information such as how Clark County got carved out of Lincoln County to payoff the debt on the Million Dollar Court House boondoggle. His writing was popular and accessible, often spotlighting some of the many colorful characters that people the history of our region and our state.

With so many new residents moving into southern Nevada, Frank and the station believed that a local history series on the radio was a good way of educating listeners to the rich history of Nevada, beyond the rise of the modern casino era in the late 1940's.

Frank was a willing consultant to movie and TV productions, newspaper reporters, novelists and foreign journalists who would rather call Frank and pick his brain than spend a lot of time digging through source material. Frank was also an optimistic preservationist. He conducted walking tours of the Las Vegas High School neighborhood, he served on the City of Las Vegas Historic Preservation Commission, which dithered away for years drafting ordinances that went nowhere and providing political cover for politicians who didn't want to upset property owners. Most recently he served on the Board of the Neon Museum.

Frank retired a year ago from the state museum with plans to turn all those years of Nevada Yesterday scripts into a book after having been diagnosed with cancer in 2001. As so often happens to new retirees he had a relapse and began the long process of surgery and chemotherapy and doctors and hospitalization. He spent his last month at home working on his laptop organizing and editing his book. He didn't get to finish it but his wife Dorothy will put the finishing touches on it to provide a fitting final chapter to his legacy as being THE best local historian in Las Vegas.

Besides his professional credentials Frank was a true and loyal friend to my family and me and to Las Vegas. He was a treasure of useful and intriguing information and the epitome of a selfless teacher and historian who worked tirelessly to define and explain how we got to where we are. He made our community a richer and better place to live. I will miss him.


Jan 24, 2015 | 1964 Election, Part 2 | Listen
As politics go, winning one election doesn't necessarily mean an easy victory in the next one. The first Las Vegas resident to be elected to the Senate faced more challenges the second time around.
Jan 16, 2015 | 1964 Election, Part 1 | Listen
By the looks of one election, Nevada's political climate in 1964 may have appeared somewhat contrary to what was going on in Washington where there was talk of "the Great Society." The election in Nevada reflected strains in the Democratic Party.
Dec 6, 2014 | 1912 Election, Part 2 | Listen
About one-fifth of Nevada's population went to the polls in 1914. And they made some notable decisions. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.
Nov 29, 2014 | 1914 Election, Part I | Listen
Statewide elections in Nevada can certainly get interesting as was the case in 1914. A remarkable election when the results are really, really close. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.
Nov 13, 2014 | Women's Suffrage in Nevada | Listen
A century has gone by since 'women's suffrage became a reality in Nevada. The push to give women in Nevada the right to vote was not an easy endeavor. We take a look at how that change came about on Nevada Yesterdays.
Oct 31, 2014 | One Hundred Fifty Years | Listen
Was it 'silver' or politics that tipped the scales in favor of Nevada statehood, 150 years ago. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.
Sep 5, 2014 | The Beatles | Listen
It's been a half century since the Beatles had a 'hard day's night,' right here in Las Vegas. The real thing - John, Paul, George and Ringo - arrived on August 20, 1964. Their performance lasted for about 30-minutes as part of a show that included the Righteous Brothers and Jackie DeShannon.
Aug 22, 2014 | Civil Rights Act | Listen
When the Civil Rights Act was passed a half century ago, not everyone within Nevada's political circles was onboard with it. The decision was not a simple one for some Nevada Senators.
Aug 1, 2014 | Bob Bailey | Listen
How much can one person accomplish? If you're like Bob Bailey, quite a bit. From show business to civil rights on the Strip, Here's Senator Richard Bryan with a look back at the life of Bob Bailey.
Jul 11, 2014 | Remembering Bob Faiss | Listen
Mixing law with the gaming industry seemed a natural fit for one Las Vegas attorney, who passed away recently. Here's a look back at the influence of attorney Bob Faiss on the gaming industry.
Web hosting facilities provided by Switch.