Alice Key made contributions to the state of Nevada as a journalist, community activist, and political leader. She was the co-host of the first all-black television talk show in Las Vegas and was active in fighting for civil rights in Nevada and California.
Alice was born in Henderson, Kentucky on March 18, 1911. As a young child, she moved to Riverside, California with her mother and the family of her uncle’s wife. She finished high school in Riverside and then went to UCLA to pursue a degree in Journalism. Her mother managed a coffee shop near the famous Club Alabam in central L.A. Key met a girl there who worked at the Cotton Club who eventually persuaded her to dance at the club, too. She left school and danced for the next five years. Her career as a dancer took her to New York where she worked at the Ubangi Club and later she spent six months in Europe touring with the Cotton Club Show.
In 1943, Key ended her dancing career and started working as a writer for a black newspaper, the Los Angeles Tribune. In 1954, she moved to Las Vegas to take a job working for the Las Vegas Voice. Not long after her arrival, she and Bob Bailey started the first all-black television talk show in Las Vegas, “Talk of the Town”, which lasted for several months.
In the 1960s, Key became the public relations manager for the Nevada Committee for the Rights of Women, which promoted education about birth control and fought for reforms to the abortion laws in Nevada. After that position, she worked for the Economic Opportunity Board until 1971. In 1983, Governor Richard Bryan named Key Deputy Commissioner of Labor, a position she held for ten years. She also involved herself in political campaigns, the NAACP, and founded the Barbara Jordan Democratic Women’s Club. Since retiring from public services, Key worked to preserve the history of black Las Vegas through the Moulin Rouge Preservation Association and the Black History Society, Inc.
Alice Key continued to reside in Las Vegas until her death. Her dedication to equality and commitment to her community helped to lower barriers faced by women and African Americans in Nevada.
Alice Key, “An Interview with Alice Key,” an interview by Claytee D. White [transcript], Las Vegas Women Oral History Project (1998), Special Collections Department, Library, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Photo courtesy of the Women’s Research Institute of Nevada. It may not be reproduced without special permission.