EOB: The start of the Economic Opportunity Board

The term EOB is referred to in many of the oral histories conducted for the African American Experience. These three letters denote the Economic Opportunity Board. The EOB was established to create and manage programs to end poverty in urban Las Vegas, and used federal funding to create job training initiatives, day care, a radio station, and literacy programs. 

Programs such as these were part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s theme to generate the era of the Great Society. His administration hoped to relieve economic distress and poverty in city communities in the so-called War on Poverty. Federal funds helped to start programs such as the EOB and it officially opened its first office in Nevada on April 5, 1965, with four staff members.

The Westside community, with the blessings of the city and Clark County, became the home of the largest non-profit agency in Nevada.

Elaine Walbroek, from Berkeley, California, brought the idea to Las Vegas and served as the first EOB executive director. Funds from the federal government trickled into the Westside. J. David Hoggard explained that, “since there were no black people employed on the Strip, we wrote a proposal for training dealers under the Concentrated Employment Program. It was funded by the Department of Labor.” The funding allowed a mock miniature casino to serve as a training tool to teach various games of chance, paying people while learning the skill. That was just the beginning. Head Start became the largest program under the EOB using Lubertha Johnson’s Operation Independence organization to operate the program.

The Economic Opportunity Board was operated by an office staff and was run by an integrated board of directors. This inspired the entire community to expand economically and intellectually. All applicants who did not have a high school diploma received GED training. In the mid-1970s at the height of war-on-poverty funds, between $12 and $15 million dollars passed through the poverty stricken Westside. As this training advanced, the Strip began to hire more black dealers and cocktail waitresses.

While the various EOB programs grew in size, the financial strides made did not address all of the community's economic ills. Training programs and child care notwithstanding, jobs sought by the majority of the community could not be addressed by the antipoverty agency. The agency’s beginnings were slow. In 1965, when first established, $25,000 was received from the federal government to set up necessary administrative trappings.  As late at 1967, definitions of program parameters still lacked a clear focus.

Continued urban discontent led to the riot of 1969.

 

Submitted by Claytee D. White

[1]Claytee D. White, Interview with J. David Hoggard, Las Vegas (November 12, 1997).