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1934 Melvin 2023

Melvin Close

April 24, 1934 — June 8, 2023

Melvin D. Close Jr. passed away peacefully at home on June 8, 2023, at the age of 89 surrounded by his beloved wife Kathleen and his three children, Mel, Stephanie, and Michael. The second of four sons, Mel was born on April 24, 1934, in Provo, Utah to Hope Coleman Close and Melvin D. Close, Sr., one of the original Las Vegas pioneer families. Mel attended Black Foxe Military School in Beverly Hills, Las Vegas High School, Brigham Young University, a stint in the Army during the Korean War, and UC Berkeley School of Law. After graduation, Mel returned home to Vegas where he opened a law practice by hanging a shingle on the door of his dad's real estate office - one could do that back then - and embossed his name in gold foil on the office window, a gift from his father. Wanting more trial experience, Mel then went to work in the U.S. Attorney General's office. During that time, he met lifelong friends like Jim Bilbray, Harry Reid, Paul Carelli and others like himself, each seeking to make names for themselves.

Mel entered politics spending 18 years in the Nevada Legislature holding the leadership offices in both houses including Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Judiciary, Speaker of the Assembly, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1973 through his last session in 1981, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and Chair of the Senate Gaming Committee. Despite rarely raising much money (only because he disliked fundraising), he never lost a single political race, instead winning by a resounding margin primarily because he was known as a man of his word. He was inducted into the Nevada Senate Hall of Fame in 1995 and served as the Chairman of the Nevada State Environmental Commission from 1986 until his retirement from law. Three of the bills he passed that he was most proud of included A.B, 582 about fiscal notes where the cost of every bill had to be included on the bill title; S.B. 275, the bill that set up the Environmental Commission; and A.B. 382, the civil and equal rights bill that was spurred by the unfairness of not allowing black performers like Sammy Davis, Jr. to stay in hotels on the Strip even though they were performing on the Strip.

After ending his work at the US Attorney General's office, he continued his legal career in private practice beginning with partners Jim Bilbray and Jerry Kaufman. They eventually merged with Cliff Jones and Herb Jones, creating Jones, Jones, Bell, LeBaron, Close, Bilbray & Kaufman which eventually became Jones Vargas. Cliff Jones and Herb Jones, ones, Bell, Lebaron, him under their wings, and mentored him throughout his career.After ending his work at the US Attorney General's office, he continued his legal career in private practice beginning with partners Jim Bilbray and Jerry Kaufman. They eventually merged with Cliff Jones and Herb Jones, creating Jones, Jones, Bell, LeBaron, Close, Bilbray & Kaufman which eventually became Jones Vargas. Cliff Jones and Herb Jones, older than Mel, took him under their wings, and mentored him throughout his career.

Mel Sr. moved the family to Las Vegas, a western town of around 40,000. Mel Sr. had a keen business mind for making deals and found success. He bought land at the corner of Las Vegas Blvd and Sahara back when the Las Vegas Strip was the desolate Highway 91, surrounded by sage, sand, and not much else. Mel Sr. opened a hot dog stand on the land, blowing the smell of grilled onions across the Strip with a fan to attract incoming tourists, before building significant real estate holdings.

Mel Jr. liked to tell the story of how his father leased the land he owned next to the hot dog stand to Milton Prell who built the Club Bingo on it, then "the Largest Club in Nevada." On opening night Club Bingo raffled off a brand new Cadillac - and the winner was none other than the gentleman who owned the hot dog stand - Lucky Mel Close Sr! Mel Sr. sold the land to Club Bingo for cash plus a "worthless" parcel of "remote" land - 100 acres on Las Vegas Boulevard stretching from Flamingo to Tropicana. In 1950 they built the Desert Rose Motel, Lucky Ducky Liquor, and the Leaning Tower of Pizza, near the corner of Harmon Avenue and LVBD, giving away the rest of the land to a builder in exchange for construction of the Desert Rose.

Mel and his first wife, Saundra Close, had three children, Mel III, Stephanie, and Michael. Mel later married Kathleen Horden Close, an original Las Vegas native.

To Las Vegas, Mel would say that he loves you and thanks you for all that you did for him, but most importantly thank you for giving him a home. Mel loved Pine Valley, Utah, Sun Valley Idaho, fishing, and spending time with friends and family.

Mel was predeceased by his parents, his brothers Wayne, and Gene Close, and Saundra Wood Close, the mother of his three children. He is survived by his beloved wife of 20 years Kathleen Horden Close, his children, Melvin D. Close III (Susan), Stephanie Close Cable (Dale), Michael Close (Tami), stepdaughter Heather Gordon Seen (Anthony), brother Jack Close (Gaylee), sister-in-law Patricia Close, and nieces and nephews. Mel was a devoted grandfather to Gregory, Amy, Sarah, Andrew, Stephen, Cory, Jazmin, KI, Sabrina, and Andrea. Mel was also a proud great-grandfather to Alex, Archer, Aviendah, Wyatt, Walker, Blair, Blake, Vanessa, and Jace. He will be missed.

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