After several years of outspoken opinion on the part of many Las Vegas area residents, it is now official: McCarran International Airport is going to receive a new name. What is the airport’s long-awaited new name? Who do area residents have to thank for making this long-anticipated chance a reality?
To begin to answer these questions, it is crucial to introduce you to a very important figure in the Las Vegas airport’s recent history. That figure is none other than Billy Walters.
Billy Walters was born in Munfordville, Kentucky in 1946 and grew up in poverty—in fact, as a young child, he didn’t even have running water or indoor plumbing. Unfortunately, Walters’ father passed away when he was just an infant, while his mother suffered from alcoholism and was largely unable to care for him in his early years. Instead, Walters was raised primarily by his grandmother for the first several years of his life.
While his grandmother provided genuine compassion and care in that household, these years were still difficult due to the extreme poverty Walters and his grandmother experienced. However, his grandmother’s tireless work ethic and dedication to her community was something Walters would later utilize in his efforts to improve the Las Vegas community. She helped him open his very first business at the age of seven, supporting his efforts to operate a lawn care business and a paper route.
Eventually, Walters’ grandmother passed away. This meant that he would be sent to live with his mother for the first time since he was an infant. Tragically, Billy’s mother and her new husband weren’t eager to care for him as if he were their own child. Instead, they were verbally abusive and neglectful, charging Walters rent to live in their basement from the age of thirteen. Through it all, Billy Walters took multiple jobs, using his incredible work ethic to survive and thrive in the face of adversity.
Harry Reid and a New Name for the Las Vegas Airport
Taking his difficult background into account, Billy Walters has since made it his goal to give back to aid those in circumstances similar to his own. As a result, much of his eventual career as a poker player and sports gambler has been centered on his desire to participate in philanthropic work. It is this devotion to charity that led Walters to befriend Harry Reid, a former Nevada Democratic senator.
In Walters’ own words, Harry Reid is a personal friend as well as a man of integrity. Although former Senator Reid had an impressively long career in office, he hasn’t limited himself to political work. Rather, he has gone out of his way to provide charitable aid to the people of Nevada. For example, Harry is a long-time supporter of Opportunity Village. This nonprofit organization is based out of Las Vegas and strives to provide intellectually or developmentally disabled adults with employment, vocational training, recreational opportunities, and more.
Along with Reid, Walters has also become an avid supporter of Opportunity Village, and his admiration of Reid grows stronger by the day. Reid also had a complicated childhood, and according to Walters, that is something that led him to develop a sense of appreciation for Reid’s tenacity. “As someone who also grew up in less-than-ideal conditions, I can appreciate the grit and determination it took for Harry Reid to accomplish all that he did.” As you can see, to Walters, he and Reid share the ability to persevere and continue onward, no matter how difficult life gets.
When renaming efforts for McCarran International Airport first began, Walters was enthusiastic to see the airport named after worthy individual instead of after Pat McCarran, an admitted anti-Semite. In order to support these efforts, Billy Walters has donated a hefty one million dollars to help the airport receive a brand new name. Ultimately, Walters was proud to assist in the renaming efforts and create a tribute to the work of Harry Reid.
The airport’s eventual rebranding as the Harry Reid Airport will take place over the upcoming years. Current projections estimate that the airport could require as much as seven million dollars to fully achieve rebranding. Funds to help rename the airport are entirely derived from private donations, a stipulation that was agreed upon by the Clark County Commission. In addition to his generous donation, Walters continues to encourage other prominent area donors to speed the completion of the renaming project.
In the near future, when the official airport signage finally reads ‘Harry Reid Airport,’ travelers from all over the world will experience the benefit of Billy Walters’ unstoppable determination and philanthropy.