March 21, 2014
Natalie Rittenhouse died early this year. She was born in 1926 and grew up in Las Vegas. She attended Fifth Street School and Las Vegas High School. She graduated from Stanford with a psychology degree. She was active in the Service League, later the Junior League, and other organizations, including the Nevada State Museum. She was very interested in Native cultures. Her interest in history was only logical. Her husband Franklin “Pete” Rittenhouse had majored in history at Nevada-Reno … and their families have been an important part of Nevada history.
Natalie Rittenhouse’s father worked at the downtown Boulder Club, where one of the family, A.B. Witcher, was a partner with Prosper Goumond. The Boulder Club installed downtown’s first neon sign. Pete Rittenhouse’s father had been Las Vegas city engineer. His sister Ann married John McNamee. And that’s where we get even deeper into Nevada’s history. (Pictured left is the Prosper Goumond home at Clark County Heritage Museum.)
John McNamee’s grandfather, Frank, came to Nevada in 1883. He lived in Eureka and later in Lincoln County. He started out as a barber but passed the bar and became an attorney. Eventually, his oldest son, Leo, joined his father in his law practice. They represented the Union Pacific Railroad here for many years, and thus were heavily involved in water issues and legal cases related to the construction of Hoover Dam. Frank McNamee, Junior, also became part of the firm. He went on to be a district court judge and later a state supreme court justice.
Leo McNamee and his wife Fran had seven children. Back in the 1930s, the joke in Las Vegas was that the McNamees would arrive at church in their car with the Herbert Hoover sign on the side, since they were Republicans. The Foleys, including five sons, would get to church in their car with the Franklin Roosevelt sign on the side. The priest would say now that the congregation had arrived, he could begin.
One of the McNamee children, Fran, married Julian Moore, an executive with Basic Magnesium and then in the gaming industry. Another, John, went into law practice with his father. Leo was the dean of the local bar when he died in 1958 after practicing in Las Vegas for forty-five years. Shortly after Leo’s death, his youngest son, Joe, joined John in the law firm.
So did Pete Rittenhouse. He started out in Las Vegas as the law partner of John Bonner, who later became U.S. attorney. That was after Pete Rittenhouse had the job as from 1955 to 1958. The firm of McNamee McNamee and Rittenhouse continued for several years. Joe McNamee served a term in the legislature, and later was a partner in the Marina Hotel, whose owners eventually sold it to Kirk Kerkorian. He built the MGM Grand at that site.
[Hear more: Wilbur Clark, Jay Sarno, Kirk Kerkorian and Steve Wynn are just a few of the legends who built the Strip. Hear about one man who didn't get enough credit on KNPR's State of Nevada.]
John McNamee died too young, in 1978. Pete Rittenhouse then became Clark County probate commissioner, serving in that position for more than a decade. Joe McNamee quit practicing law, ran the Silk Purse Ranch, and later moved to California.
The Rittenhouses’ daughter, Allison Hayward, became an attorney and is on the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics, and another in a long line of accomplished members of the McNamee and Rittenhouse families. Perhaps they aren’t too well known these days. They should be. They are among the important pioneer families of southern Nevada.
See discussion rules
|Aug 22, 2014 | Civil Rights Act|
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|
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|
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.
|May 16, 2014 | Viva Las Vegas|
"Viva Las Vegas" turns 50 in a few days. We'll hear how Las Vegas itself starred in the iconic movie, along side Elvis. Moviegoers got a taste of Southern Nevada and a song to go with it!
|May 9, 2014 | Sagebrush Rebels|
A rancher challenging federal authority over land rights in Nevada has been in the news recently, but it's not the first time the subject has been a hot topic. Remembering the "Sagebrush Rebellion" on Nevada Yesterdays.
|Apr 18, 2014 | Metro Battles Corruption and the Mob|
Efforts to drive organized crime out of Las Vegas, left one former Metro officer, Kent Clifford, with some controversies of his own.
|Mar 21, 2014 | Natalie Rittenhouse|
Family connections run deep for some pioneer families of Southern Nevada. Perhaps they aren't too well known these days. They should be. They are among the important pioneer families of southern Nevada.
|Mar 7, 2014 | Test Ban|
Strange as it may seem now, there was a time when detonating a nuclear bomb was healthy for Nevada's image.
|Feb 21, 2014 | Green Felt Jungle|
The pen is mightier than the roulette table? Some books over the years have tested that notion. Fifty years ago, a book about Las Vegas became a best-seller. But not everyone was happy with what the book had to say about the influence of organized crime on Las Vegas casinos.
|Jan 16, 2014 | Martin Luther King, Jr.|
Fifty years have gone by since Martin Luther King, Jr. made his way to Las Vegas, in a visit that had an impact. Local leaders had won the right to patronize once segregated casinos, but they hoped King would reinvigorate the local movement.
|Jan 3, 2014 | Treaty of Ruby Valley|
A treaty that was signed in the territory of Nevada 150 years ago is still raising questions. The Western Shoshone tribe has been offered tens of millions of dollars by the US government, but they say no thanks. In 1974, sisters Mary and Carrie Dann of Beowawe, became symbols of the tribes resistance.
|Dec 5, 2013 | Lon Simmons|
We take a look at how a legendary sports-broadcaster forged a path from Las Vegas to Candlestick Park. Switching from pitcher to broadcaster turned out to be a home run decision for Lon Simmons. Here's Senator Richard Bryan with Nevada Yesterdays.
|Nov 20, 2013 | JFK and Las Vegas Connections|
Elements of John F. Kennedy's ties to Las Vegas have been mixed in with the
puzzle-pieces surrounding his death. Las Vegas and Nevada were part of the orbit of the Kennedys, their allies, and their enemies. Senator Richard Bryan connects the dots on Nevada Yesterdays.
|Sep 20, 2013 | Constitution|
How about the great State of Washoe or Esmeralda? When residents of this territory considered statehood 150 years ago, it took more than one attempt to get them to agree on a name and on how much to tax the lucrative gold and silver mines.
|Sep 1, 2013 | Sawyer v. Sinatra|
It was around Labor Day 50 years ago, that Nevada's little black book caused some friction for Frank Sinatra. A mobster who was in the black book was seen in the Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe and Sinatra was part owner...
|Aug 2, 2013 | Dorothy Gallagher|
Dorothy Gallagher never gave up on access to higher education for people living in rural areas.
|Jul 12, 2013 | A Big Fight|
Some boxing matches in Las Vegas have carried more weight than just a heavyweight title.
|Jun 14, 2013 | Tarkanian, Part II|
UNLV's Runnin' Rebels were coached by a man who was thought to be something of a rebel himself.
|Jun 7, 2013 | Tarkanian, Part I|
To make it into the Basketball hall of fame, Jerry Tarkanian must have done something right.
|May 23, 2013 | The 17th Part II|
There was a time in Nevada when your ballot would not have included contenders for the U.S. Senate.