Transcript of interview with Lonnie G. Wright by Claytee D. White, October 23, 2009


Digital ID
Transcript of interview with Lonnie G. Wright by Claytee D. White, October 23, 2009
Material Set
White, Claytee D.
Interview with Lonnie G. Wright conducted by Claytee D. White on October 23, 2009. Wright played basketball at UNLV and became a successful local educator and businessman. His grandmother worked as a maid for prominent Las Vegans.
In the 1940s, over a decade before Lonnie Wright was born, his maternal grandparents and his mother moved from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to Las Vegas seeking job opportunities. Grandmother Vaughn became a maid to early well-known families such as the Woodburys, the Von Toebels, and former Mayor Hess. Grandfather Vaughn worked at the Nevada Test Site. These grandparents would be major influences in his life, which included many accomplishments on local, national and international fronts. Though Lonnie's parents were mere teenagers when they met, married, and started a family, they instilled the importance of education. Lonnie's father insisted that his sons attend a private, Catholic school across town. He drove them to school each day. However, the divorce of his parents interrupted life in Vegas. Lonnie's mother moved them to Los Angeles, but his grandmother soon then "bribed" him with a car to return to Vegas. He is a 1970 graduate of Western High School. Lonnie was a two-sport athlete in high school football and basketball. He accepted a UNLV basketball scholarship and played for Coach Jerry Tarkanian in the early 70s. In 1975, after graduation, he looked at his opportunities and decided to become a dealer at Binion's Horseshoe. He was twenty-two years old and the only black there. Six months later, his journey through the various Strip casinos was underway. Over the next years he would deal at the Riviera, Sahara, and Caesars, among others. Each move would boost his income and confidence, but the burden of being black in a mostly white man's arena did not diminish. In this interview, he describes the casino mentality of racism and sexism that he encountered. With personality and intelligence, Lonnie describes dealing with the odds and his road to a series of business accomplishments. He made friends easily, he knew the value of being a team player and using athletics as marketing strategy. By 1984 he had earned his masters degree from UNLV and had earned the respect of many community leaders. His entrepreneurial spirit has lead him to many endeavors from opening a cigar store as young man to his current ownership of Shetakis Wholesalers and Wright Foods. Lonnie started the Basketball Alumni Association to fund athletes who had not finished their degrees. He coached basketball in Singapore and sharpened his international sophistication. At all times he is an educator, whether in the classroom as a professor at CSN or with his business associates. Lonnie has traveled the world in his various roles and gained a vast knowledge of hospitality and tourism marketing. Lonnie Wright's words paint a picture of a successful educator and businessman, who understood the social issues of the times in which he was raised and has lived; and how it was to be a black man in Las Vegas from the 70s onward.
Identified Individuals
Identified Corporate Bodies
Neighborhood City / Town
CT247 .W75 2007
Original Collection
Original Date (interview)
Subject (FAST)
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Genre (TGM)
Specific Genre (LCSH)
This material may be protected by copyright. Personal, including educational and academic, use of this material is without restriction; but acknowledgement of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, University Libraries is requested whether the use is oral, web or in print. Commercial use of any portion of this material requires permission. For further information please contact Digital Collections: This document is an oral history. It is a spoken account of certain events and phenomena recorded at one particular moment and filtered through one individual's life experience, sensibility, and memory. As such, it should be considered a primary source rather than a final, verified, or complete narrative of the events it records.
Digital Publisher
University of Nevada Las Vegas
Digital Collection
Master Extent
2451 x 3211 pixels; 8.17 x 10.703 inches; 18,063,360 bytes; 127 images
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Master File Quality
24 bit color; 300 ppi

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