Bob Price, Nevada Titan 1936-2019

"Another Elvis has left the building" — Anonymous


By Andrew Barbano / Updated 9 January 2019 GMT

Sparks, Nev. (U-News) 5 January 2019 — Longtime Nevada assemblymember and labor leader Bob Price died of an apparent heart attack at his Sparks home on January 4. He was 82.

Price represented a North Las Vegas district from 1974 to 2002. The liberal Democrat served on every legislative committee and rose to chair the powerful Assembly Committee on Taxation. He and his wife, Nancy, a former university regent, relocated to Sparks in northwestern Nevada after retirement.

A memorial celebration is scheduled for 2:00 to 5:00 p.m on Saturday, January 19, at Robert E. “Bob” Price Park and Recreation Center, 2100 Bonnie Lane, Las Vegas 89110. The facility was dedicated in his honor in 2007. The Nevada Legislature convenes in February and a tribute is in the works.

Bob Price was a member of Las Vegas IBEW Local 357/AFL-CIO for more than half a century including service as the union's elected business manager. His proudest possession was a lunch pail signed by Elvis Presley who visited with Price and his fellow workers during the 1969-70 construction of the International Hotel showroom (now the Las Vegas Hilton).

"We were on our break from wiring the theater when The King of Rock 'n' Roll walked in to review the work in progress," Price remembered.

"He sat down with us for awhile and you've never met a nicer guy. I had a pen but no paper, so I had him sign the lid to my lunchbox," he added.

Price was inducted into the César Chávez Nevada Labor Hall of Fame in 2011 and will be memorialized at Chávez Celebration XVII at the Grand Sierra-Reno on March 27.

Former State Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, served with Price for 28 years.

"He assisted me in integrating Local 357," Neal said.

"It was Bob who gave me the idea that the base point for integration of the building trades unions required getting enough minority members to affect union elections," Neal added. "We became true friends: a southern black boy from Mounds, Louisiana, and a white guitar picker from Florida." Nevada's first African-American senator will lead the commemoration of his fellow César Chávez Hall of Famer next March.

In his later years, Price suffered through serious health problems, including a hospital-contracted MRSA bacterial infection that eventually cost him the use of his legs. Family and friends were amazed when he beat the beastly microbes and returned home after a long convalescence.

It was not the first time Price beat the reaper. In 1998, he made national headlines when he suffered a heart attack on a plane arriving at the Reno airport. He was revived by quick-thinking Rosalind Clarke of Aptos, Calif., who learned CPR because she had witnessed her father's death as a child. She had never used her training before that day. Price underwent a triple heart bypass shortly thereafter. Ms. Clarke visited him in the hospital.

"Bob's union passions pre-empted pain," remembers editor Andrew Barbano.

"Several years ago, Nancy picked up Bob from a short hospital stay to bring him home. Instead, the old union electrician insisted on going straight to that evening's César Chávez event," Barbano added. Notwithstanding a wheelchair, he attended every subsequent César celebration through last March.

Price was known as an affable individual who would serenade his fellow lawmakers with his guitar and conduct sing-alongs during delays in the long late-night hours of waning legislative sessions.
"His advocacy for working families and the poor was always serious, fierce and unyielding," Neal remembers.

Price sometimes paid a heavy price. Because he refused to allow regressive sales taxes through his committee, Assembly Speaker Joe Dini, D-Yerington, removed special interest taxation from Price's purview so that Nevada's tradition of taxing those least able to pay could proceed.

Majority Leader Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, unceremoniously informed Price of the almost unheard-of maneuver that despite his seniority and experience, he had been stripped of his longtime chairmanship and made chair of a new minor committee in 1999. Adding insult to injury, Perkins barred Price from bringing his guitar to entertain his colleagues during long end-of-session breaks.

Reno casinos thus got the downtown railroad trench for which they were not willing to pay. City of Reno taxpayers will continue to shoulder a heavy burden for decades to come. The city has long been in default because the trench taxes which Price opposed have not covered construction loan payments.

Making matters worse, the city's principal lenders, Goldman Sachs and Deutschebank, are now both on the ropes amid mounting worldwide financial scandals. In the event of bankruptcies, a federal judge could order the Nevada legislature to raise taxes to pay the banks' creditors as has happened in other U.S. jurisdictions.

In 1990, the gambling-industrial complex conducted a scorched-earth primary campaign against Price for proposing an amendment to stop casinos from contributing to political campaigns because they are a regulated industry.

Speaker Dini descended from the podium to speak against it on the floor, a rare breach of legislative protocol in addition to a humongous conflict of interest. Dini owned a casino.

Price defeated the casino candidate by 31 votes and returned the favor by forever fighting firing with fire. For the rest of his career, he introduced legislation to protect employees from arbitrary firings, instead requiring just cause for termination. Nevada unfortunately remains a fire-at-will state in which non-union workers have few rights.

Price's daughter Teresa continues her father's advocacy to make the casino industry accountable. She has long been an activist against smoking in gambling halls and travels the country speaking on behalf of casino employees.

Assemblymember Price consistently won passage of salary benefits for legislative staffers forced to work around the clock without extra compensation at the end of every session. (He didn't think sing-alongs were enough.) The Nevada Legislature only meets for 120 days every two years, creating a final-week frenzy often resulting in accidental laws, usually bad ones. (An exception was passage of one of the strongest open meeting laws in the country — by clerical error.)

Price thus consistently pushed for a state constitutional amendment requiring annual legislative sessions. As taxation committee chair, he was instrumental in winning a years-long fight to remove Nevada's punitive sales tax on groceries.

Fearing for the future of the republic, he engineered passage of a clever measure wiping from the record Nevada's previous endorsement of a national constitutional convention. Should the required 33 other states call for such a convention, Price's legislative maneuver may immortalize him in the annals of constitutional jurisprudence. Can a state rescind after first supporting a convention? The fate of the "United" States may rest on that future court decision. (Some 31 states, including Nevada, have voted for a convention, albeit for divergent purposes.)

The former hard-hat facilitated passage of ethics legislation, sunshine laws providing for more government transparency, and re-naming Nevada State Route 375 as the Extraterrestrial Highway.

When the state formally christened the central Nevada road in 1996, several cast members of the soon-to-be-released movie blockbuster "Independence Day" showed up. Not to be outdone, the onetime Nevada Nuclear Test Site electrician donned a Darth Vader helmet and upstaged the stars. The Hollywood media machine made Darth Price an international celebrity for about 15 minutes.

Robert Earle Price, Jr., was born May 23, 1936, in DeLand, Florida, or so he thought. The 1940 U.S. Census states he was born in Texas. Neither state has a record. Robert Earle Price, Sr., was an electrical lineman. After the death of his wife, the former Mary Grace Davis, the father took his son and hit the road. They sang, strummed and rodeo'd their way across the country.

A 12 year-old Bob met Hattie Bohr Bishop and introduced her to his dad. She would often say "I married the man to get the kid." Price Sr. was a calf roper and cowboy. Bob Junior graduated from high school and learned his father's trade in Cheyenne, Wyoming, before the family moved to the Silver State. He worked at Levy Realty in Las Vegas between construction jobs.

"Bob Price and the Gambling Ranch Hands" was a TV show when Las Vegas had only one television station. (No wonder he got along with Elvis.)

He qualified for a private pilot's license and co-owned several light aircraft.

"Bob married a blonde, a brunette and a redhead, not necessarily in that order," Nancy Price quips. She served six years as an elected regent of the Nevada System of Higher Education and retired as an Air National Guard chief master sergeant.

"Legend has it that tiny Nancy can shoot both eyes out of a one-eyed jack at 300 yards," Barbano said, "which explains why it's hard to find a complete deck of cards at Chez Price in Sparks."

Bob Price fathered daughters Teresa, Amber and Cherie with the former Shirley Slater. He later married the former Brenda Denson and adopted her son, William Randal Price. On March 3, 1984, with Nevada Gov. and Mrs. Richard Bryan in attendance, he married Nancy Horner Bogan.

He was preceded in death by his parents, step-mother, former wives, daughter, Amber; and step-son Thomas Robert Horner. He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Nancy, and her son David Bogan. He is further survived by daughters Teresa Price of Las Vegas and Cherie Price-Steiner of Newport Beach, California; a sister, Edna Schwenk of Erie, Pennsylvania; step-son William Randal Price and numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

"My husband Bob made people laugh, the greatest gift one can give," Nancy Price muses.

"Nevadans will long remember the great gift of Bob Price passing thru their lives," Barbano stated.

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First comment posted: "Another Elvis has left the building."

To paraphrase Neil Young, long may he strum.


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