Vegas education advocate honored during Black History Month

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Hannah Brown has experienced many firsts in her life in Las Vegas, from being a student at a new racially integrated school to being the first black, female station manager during her career in aviation.

Brown, who moved to Las Vegas in 1945 at age 6, attended Westside Grammar School during segregation.

Years later, as an adult, she became an education advocate who lobbied for a better education system in Southern Nevada and served on numerous education boards and committees. She was instrumental in raising funds to award college scholarships to hundreds of students.

“I got carried away, somehow,” Brown told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, adding that helping young people was important to her.

Brown, 82, is among four Southern Nevadans honored by Cox Communications during Black History Month.

The other honorees are Constance Brooks, vice chancellor of public affairs and advancement for Nevada’s higher education system; Allen Stephenson, field operations manager for Cox; and Lawrence Weekly, a former Clark County commissioner who is chief of staff and director of diversity at the College of Southern Nevada.

In 1999, shortly after Brown became president of the Urban Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce — a position she held for nearly a decade — the business organization received a $500 donation, which she split it into two $250 scholarships to be awarded to students, she recalled.

The following year, the chamber raised more than $25,000 for scholarships, Brown said.

Over the years, the scholarship program – now known as the Hannah Brown Community Development Corp.

Brown is also the namesake of Hannah Marie Brown Elementary School, a Clark County School District campus that opened in August 2021 in Henderson.

She has been involved in the school since the construction phase. Now Brown often goes to school to visit students and help out. She jokes with the school principal that she promises not to enroll as a student.

Michele Wooldridge, principal of Brown Elementary School, said the school’s namesake is one of the most selfless people she has met.

Brown has been through trials and tribulations while showing grace and poise, and always seeks to do the right thing, Wooldridge said, noting that she respects her.

“Hannah is like a ball of energy that pulls you in and you can’t help but do better things because of her,” she said.

She’s an incredible woman who has worked hard all her life and is a trailblazer in so many ways, Wooldridge said.

Wooldridge said she started talking to Brown when the school was under construction and wanted her involved from the start. “I wanted the namesake to be part of our school and our beliefs because she is such an incredible role model.”

Even before the school opened, Brown met with students to talk about leadership.

At school events, Brown is a social butterfly and gives lots of hugs, Wooldridge said.

Brown is loved at school, Wooldridge said, and there is chaos when she walks into a classroom because the children are overjoyed to see her and give her a hug.

Brown recently spent a few hours at school talking with students about her background and what it was like growing up in segregated Las Vegas.

Wooldridge said she encourages students to ask questions because it’s one thing to read about segregation and another to hear about it from someone who has experienced it.


Brown moved from the small town of Stamps, Arkansas, where she was born, to Las Vegas as a child. His mother came to the area looking for work and got a job in the pantry at the El Rancho Vegas hotel.

Brown attended grades one through seven at Westside Grammar School in the city’s black neighborhood. The school is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Brown attended eighth grade and graduated as a class salute from a new school, Madison Elementary School, as part of his first class.

She went on to Rancho High School, where she was in the first freshman class.

“It was exciting for me,” Brown said, noting that her whole life revolved around school. She excelled, making the honor roll. “School was really fun for me.”

She said she grew up in a strict American Baptist family and was only allowed to go to school and church.

At Rancho, her first integrated school, she said there were probably about 15 black students in the entire school.

Brown said she often asked how the transition from a separate school to an integrated school went, noting that the only challenge she had was all the new friends she had to make.

A friend encouraged her to run for student body office, saying everyone loved her.

“I thought there was no way I would get elected,” she said.

But her friend had started campaigning on her behalf, so she got on board. She said she ended up beating her opponent’s socks off.

She said she was one of the first two black female students at Rancho to hold a student body office and served as student body secretary.

Due to the zoning change, Brown attended the next three years of high school at Las Vegas High School, where she graduated in 1958.

About a year after graduating from high school, her daughter Kay was born, and she focused her attention on her education.

Throughout her life, Brown has experienced a number of firsts, from attending brand new schools to being a trailblazer in her career.

“Everything was first,” she said.

As a teenager, she worked at Larry’s Music Bar and was promoted to a young adult management position.

She then began a 27-year career with Western Airlines, which merged with Delta Air Lines in 1987.

She started at Western working on reservations and became the first black, female station manager — the same first she went on to hold with Delta. She rose through the ranks at Delta until she worked as a regional manager at airline headquarters.

Brown said that when she held senior positions at airlines, her co-workers were white men and some people said it would be a challenge for her to earn their respect.

But Brown said she felt like when you treat someone with respect, they do the same to you — something she’s found to be true over the course of her career.

In 1991, she was named by Ebony magazine as one of “100 of the most promising black women in corporate America”, she said.

During her career, she lived across the country before returning to Las Vegas in the 1990s. She worked as a manager at McCarran International Airport, which was recently renamed Harry Reid International Airport.

In addition to her involvement in awarding scholarships to help local students, Brown said she secured a $4 million grant in 2010 through the Las Vegas Centennial Commission to begin the restorations of his alma mater, the Westside Grammar School, which is now a cultural centre. center.

“It really lifted the community up a lot,” she said.

And about 10 years ago, Brown — when she was chapter president of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women — spoke with the principal of Kelly Elementary School in downtown Las Vegas about ways to help.

The group started a Saturday tutoring program, which lasted for a few years over the summer, for 30 of the lowest performing students to try to help them reach grade level in reading and math.

Brown has won numerous awards and served on numerous boards, including currently serving as a board member of The Valley Health System.

“It’s a service,” she said of her board membership. “It helps the community.”

Many people know Brown for her work with airlines and her deep ties to education and the Urban Chamber of Commerce, but she is also a longtime member of the Board of Governors first for Valley Hospital and now for the Valley Health System, said Karla Perez. , Regional Vice President for Universal Health Services.

“Since 2007, she has shared insights about community needs and customer service with our hospital leaders and other advisory board members,” Perez said in a statement to the Review-Journal. “Hannah’s legacy will always be her commitment to improving the lives of people in Southern Nevada, and our community is a much better place because of her compassion, dedication and hard work.”

Outside of her career and community achievements, Brown enjoys knitting — a hobby she took up in her mid-40s.

And she is a mother who raised her daughter as a single mother. She said she never got married because she wasn’t going to let someone else tell her daughter what to do.

Her daughter is now 62 and lives in the Las Vegas Valley.

“My greatest accomplishment,” Brown said, “is for my daughter to succeed.”

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