LEGACY: GONNA TAKE YOU HIGHER
Ricky Towers, Sr. takes pride in a life that has been high-stakes. Having launched a career on the legendary gaming floors of Fremont, Towers worked to roll the dice in favor of opportunity for the nearly 15,000 young people he coached as director of Little League for West Las Vegas. Born and raised on K Street to revered community figure Lawrence Towers, Ricky and his wife, Shirley, an educator in Special Education, met in 1970 at Clark High School, and together have inherited a philosophy of service as continuing legacy. Marking over forty years in the industry, Towers is a specialty table games dealer and manager for Caesars Entertainment Corporation.
Growing up in West Las Vegas, I was able to observe the prosperity and success of African Americans at a time when we were able to create our own economy and be a conduit between the hospitality industry and the community. My parents were very instrumental in giving us a bird’s eye view of how we could be successful. They established themselves with a small number of African Americans in the community who were very close knit because of the segregated environment. With that segregated environment was also integrated employment. Even though segregated in specific areas of the industry, African Americans comprised 70% of the work force. That number is now probably less than 1%. As a forty-one-year hospitality professional, I had the opportunity to work in a lot of specific areas in the industry, from food and beverage to service worker, to departmental manager, to executive training programs and becoming an expert in the areas of table gaming management. We played a major role in the success of the industry. My father was a transit driver, bus driver, in the ‘60s — the first African American to drive for Las Vegas Transit. Part of his responsibility was to transport African American workers to the Strip. So, he picked them up in the inner city and dropped them off on the Strip. It was a very strategic script designed by the industry. Because most of the service workers were African American, if they didn’t get to the Strip there were no beds made. There were no steaks cooked; there were no floors cleaned. That story was my encouragement to really see what the inner workings of the industry were about and to observe our actual casinos in the inner city. We had four casinos back in the ‘60s, and they were four functioning establishments where local African Americans who couldn’t patronize the Strip would come together for gaming, entertainment, nightlife. Very exciting. I was fortunate enough to observe the real heyday of the community. The El Rio Club, Town Tavern, El Morocco, People’s Choice — those were all live-gaming establishments. Everyone that wanted to prosper had the opportunity, because the employment mechanism was fairly easy. If you were African American and knew someone in the industry, they just hired you right away. One of the gentleman, very instrumental in that, was Mr. Joe Miles. He was the president of the culinary union. He was the dispatcher for African American employment in the industry. He made sure African Americans were employed and continuously working, which allowed us to be self-sufficient — nice homes, nice cars. People used to tell me when they came to Las Vegas, they couldn’t believe how African Americans were living. The employment was very strong. With that, I’d looked to either be an owner one day or to get involved in making sure the infrastructure of the community establishments stayed there. That’s what encouraged me to get involved in the industry. I saw the potential of not only what it could provide, but how important it is to keep an economy in the Black community. So, forty-one years later, here I am, great career — looking to expand my knowledge on the consulting level, to talk about the importance of not only keeping African Americans employed and trained, because under a casino, you have painters, plumbers, electricians, auditors, food and beverage, retail. You have twenty professions under the roof, so the opportunity of upward mobility is strong once you get inside the door.