Thursday, Aug. 20, 1998 | 10:44 a.m.
A dynamic force in Southern Nevada journalism and development for more than 40 years died Tuesday in La Jolla, Calif.
Retired Las Vegas Review-Journal managing editor William Wright, 81, known as much for his interest in Nevada history as for his role in overseeing the news in his adopted state, will be honored with a memorial service Saturday from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Palm Mortuary, 1525 N. Main St.
"It will be a celebration of his life," said his granddaughter, Sheri Long of Las Vegas.
A reception will be held from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Nevada State Museum and Historical Society in Lorenzi Park, 700 Twin Peaks Dr.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Nevada State Museum and Historical Society.
Long said Wright died suddenly at the Scripps Clinic and Research Center, where he was undergoing tests on his heart.
Born Aug. 28, 1917, in Corsicana, Texas, Wright moved to Las Vegas with his wife, Annelle, in 1941 to go to work in the display advertising department of the R-J. His wife proceeded him in death.
Wright was the paper's managing editor when he retired in 1981 at the age of 64.
Dave Siminatis, the R-J retail advertising manager, was hired by Wright in 1973.
He recalls his former boss as a man who inspired respect.
"Over the course of these 25 years, out of respect I always called him Mr. Wright," said Siminatis, who last saw Wright several months ago.
Most business associates called him Mr. Wright, noted Siminatis.
"It would have been out of the ordinary to call him Bill," he said. "There was a lot of admiration for him."
Ruthe Deskin, assistant to the publisher of the Sun, recalls that even though Wright worked for a competing newspaper he did not let the competition interfere with their friendship.
"Bill was a quiet, gentle person with a subtle sense of humor whose love for Nevada made him one of the state's foremost and most knowledgeable historians," Deskin said. "He was also a loyal, steadfast friend."
When Sun Executive Editor Mike O'Callaghan was governor he appointed Wright to a number of positions with the state's historical society.
"Traveling Nevada and visiting with Bill Wright was always pleasant and informative," recalled O'Callaghan. "Few, if any, people had the historical grasp of Nevada that Bill possessed. He was a walking history book with a warm and human touch."
When Wright began selling advertising at the R-J the circulation was 3,000. Today it is approximately 185,000 on weekdays and 225,000 on weekends when combined with the Sun.
Wright grew up in Illinois and graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism. He worked as an advertising salesman at the Peoria (Ill.) Star before moving to Las Vegas.
The newspaper business was Wright's vocation -- history his avocation.
Soon after moving to Nevada he became interested in its history and began what became a lifetime of digging into the state's past. He became an antique collector, specializing in old bottles. He also had a large collection of old stock certificates, trade tokens, old newspapers and railroad memorabilia.
In addition to his career and his interest in history, Wright was involved in many community development activities.
"He was one of the founding members of the Better Business Bureau (of Southern Nevada)," Siminatis said.
Wright was a former member and past president of the Las Vegas Press Club, Las Vegas Lions Club and Better Business Bureau of Southern Nevada.
He was a former member of the Las Vegas Elks Lodge and chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Nevada State Museum.
He once served as president of the Nevada State Press Association and is a former member of the Board of Directors of United Way, the Las Vegas Advertising Club, the Lost City Museum Board, the Boy Scout Explorer Committee, the Advisory Board of the Salvation Army, the Advisory Board of Junior Achievement, the Nevada Department of Museums and History, the symphonic Association of Las Vegas and the Nevada Division of Historic Preservation and and Archaeology.
In 1980 he was given the 1980 Distinguished Nevadan award by UNLV for his cultural and historical contributions to the state.
Survivors include two daughters, Joanna Sharpe of Las Vegas and Susan Phillips of Newport Beach, Calif.; two sons, Richard "Spike" Wright and Robert "Buck" Wright, both of Las Vegas; grandchildren Sheri Long, Michael Oliver, Chuck Wright and Justin Wright, all of Las Vegas, and Debbi Carver of Tehachapi, Calif, and Christopher Phillips of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; and 11 great-grandchildren.