Bob Bailey, singer and Las Vegas civil rights pioneer, dies at 87

Bob Bailey, who has died at age 87, was emcee for a revue at the Moulin Rouge casino in Las Vegas

William "Bob" Bailey, a singer, TV host and Las Vegas civil rights trailblazer who was the first chairman of the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, has died. He was 87.

Bailey, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, died May 24 under hospice care in Las Vegas, according to the Clark County coroner's office.

Born in Detroit on Feb. 14, 1927, Bailey was raised in Cleveland and graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he was a classmate of Martin Luther King Jr.

He toured and recorded with the Count Basie Orchestra as a featured singer in the late 1940s and began performing as Bob Bailey to avoid being confused with a cousin, Bill Bailey, who also sang professionally. Among the venues Bob Bailey headlined at as an entertainer was the Las Palmas Theatre in Hollywood in the late '40s and early '50s.

Bob Bailey arrived in Las Vegas in 1955 and rose to prominence as an emcee for the Tropi-Can-Can Revue at the Moulin Rouge casino on the city's west side. At the time, African American musicians were allowed to perform in Las Vegas casinos but not allowed to stay in the hotels or frequent the showrooms as guests. The Moulin Rouge was the first integrated hotel and casino in Las Vegas, but it closed after six months, reportedly for financial reasons.

Along with others, Bailey helped negotiate an agreement in 1960 that desegregated Las Vegas casinos.

But the work was far from done after the accord. In 1962, then-Nevada Gov. Grant Sawyer appointed Bailey as chairman of the equal rights commission, where Bailey was responsible for conducting statewide hearings and subpoenaing business owners who continued to discriminate against blacks.

Starting in the 1950s and over several decades, Bailey worked as a host and broadcaster at southern Nevada radio and TV stations.

He also advocated for economic opportunities for minorities through various organizations, and was appointed by President George H.W. Bush as deputy director of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Minority Business Development Agency in 1990.

In 2005, the William H. "Bob" Bailey Middle School opened in his honor in northwestern Las Vegas.

His survivors include his wife, Anna; a daughter, a son and five grandchildren.

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