Cedric Crear has a particularly close association with some of the city’s long-time leaders in the historically black West Westside neighborhood that he now represents on the city council.
He was baptized by Rev. Marion Bennett, attended an elementary school named after Mabel Hoggard, learned to swim from Charles Kellar, and can trace his father’s move to Nevada to a business proposal from the state’s first black doctor, Charles West.
They are just four of 36 guides and icons of the historic Westside neighborhood near downtown, whose significant contributions will soon be contributing to the $ 3.2 million Legacy Park, which is expected to open later this year will perform.
As a joint project between the city and Clark County, the park will be modeled in a mid-century modern style and will feature a timeline of the historic west side, interpretive walking path, playground and public artwork, according to both governments.
Trees and landscaping will provide the green spaces in the heart of the Enterprise Park business district, where the new park will be built near West Lake Mead and Martin Luther King Boulevards.
A rendering for the project that laid the foundation stone in December shows plaques from award winners in the park.
The idea for Legacy Park arose out of a phone call to Crear from ex-county commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who was inspired by a similar concept at his alma mater, Grambling State University.
The historic west side became a predominantly black neighborhood around the 1930s when residents were forced to settle there due to racial segregation laws, and grew rapidly after World War II. In the 1950s, Jackson Avenue was a booming epicenter in the neighborhood with businesses like Town Tavern, Harlem Club, and Brown Derby.
Over the years the historic west side has been affected by divestments and has remained virtually unchanged, although the city is currently in the first phase of implementing a comprehensive revitalization plan.
Beyond the district’s rich history, its contributors – often referred to as “pioneers” – are revered.
“Now we have an opportunity to remind them for future generations through historic Westside Legacy Park, to know the shoulders they stand on and the people who paved the way for them today,” said County Commissioner William McCurdy II .
The winners announced on Tuesday
Crear and McCurdy, whose borough includes the neighborhood, announced Tuesday the first three dozen award winners as part of the seventh annual African-American Trailblazer Service Awards program, which recognizes residents who do outstanding civic service in the community.
Legacy Park winners were community nominated and selected by a group of three people with expertise in the neighborhood’s history. It is expected that new winners will be added every year.
“That first group of people who I think are just home runs,” said Crear.
Weekly, who was also present at the Trailblazer Awards and preceded McCurdy on the commission, said he gets emotional looking at the list of winners.
“I can only imagine what these men and women had to endure to accomplish the many things they have done,” he said.
Many leaders are now namesake of the school
Bennett marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s, served as an MP in Nevada, and founded the first Black Methodist Church in Las Vegas. According to the city, Hoggard was the first black teacher to be hired by the Clark County School District and one of 13 award winners to give a school its name, said Tammy Malich, the city’s director of youth development and social innovation.
Kellar, an attorney, filed a lawsuit that resulted in the separation of schools in Clark County. West was “a civil rights pioneer who paved the way for other African American professionals in Las Vegas,” the city said.
Among the winners is the late former Senator Joe Neal, who served 32 years in the legislature as the first black elected to the Nevada Senate and who led the improvement of the public safety of trade structures after the deadly MGM fire in 1980.
Helen Toland, whose house was recently added to the city’s historical register, was the first black woman to be a school principal in the Clark County School District and is the youngest namesake of the former Kit Carson Elementary School, where she worked for seven years.
Bob Bailey was a Las Vegas television personality and the first state chairman of the Equal Rights Commission to investigate discrimination in the workplace. He is survived by his wife Anna Bailey, an award winner who has been a longtime dancer and performed at the city’s first interracial casino, the Moulin Rouge.
And Crear’s father, John Crear, was the second black doctor in the state, while the city council’s mother, Barbara Crear, was a substitute teacher who, according to the city, served in the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and community service.
Visit https://www.lasvegasnevada.gov for a full list and background of all 36 award winners.
Contact Shea Johnson at [email protected] or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.