The Nevada Hall of Fame, an online venue, was launched in January to honor persons who have gained fame in the state “or deserved to”.
The virtual Hall was established by author David Toll of Gold Hill. He says his purpose in creating the Hall is to educate the world about the exceptional Nevadans who have contributed to our history in important ways even if they didn’t always make it to the history books. “They come in all sizes, shapes, colors, origins and attitudes,” Toll says. “In that way they reflect the population as a whole, but these individuals stood out from the crowd by virtue of their accomplishments.”
Toll was the first Acting Director of the Nevada Commission on Tourism when it was formed in 1983 and his “Complete Nevada Traveler”, first published by the University of Nevada Press in 1976, has become the best-selling book ever published in Nevada through 9 editions. He was editor-publisher of the widely read and fondly remembered Gold Hill NEWS 1974-1978, and has won First Place Awards from the Nevada Press Association over a 40-year span for Best Feature Writing in a Weekly (1975), Best writing in a Daily (1979) and Best Writing Online (2017 and 2019).
“When it first occurred to me that Nevada has no Hall of Fame, I envisioned a big sign on the outside of a large empty building,” Toll says.
“But,” he adds, “I have since refined that conception to include virtual exhibits on individuals who have achieved fame here, or at least deserved to. They needn’t have lived here all their lives or even spent much time here at all, only that they deserved to be famous and had a strong Nevada connection.”
The Hall opened quietly January 1 with six members: five men and one woman. Two were athletes, World Series pitcher Bill “Wheezer” Dell and Olympic tennis champion Marion Jones; artist ‘Doc’ Sherman; journalist W.J. Forbes; prophet Wovoka; and whorehouse tycoon Joe Conforte.
Nominations of future members can be made at the website, and new honorees will be announced every two or three months, Toll says. “Our Electors insist on strict anonymity and take elaborate steps to meet in secrecy. Thanks to their tireless deliberations we have four more members already in the pipeline, two men and two women: a movie star, an underground miner, an attorney and a doctor’.”
But, Toll admits, the Electors are also extremely concerned about an unanticipated result of the Grand Opening. Joe Conforte was the only living member among the first six. “No sooner was Joe’s name publicly announced, than he was reported dead in Rio De Janeiro,” Toll says. “Now some of the Electors are concerned that elevating another living person to the Hall will be the Kiss of Death, while others argue for testing the theory by naming Jim Gibbons or Ron James to the Hall.”
Toll says he won’t take responsibility for the death of a 93-year-old man. “Joe was one of a kind, a man who steered his own course through the world, defying and deceiving and outsmarting as he went. He died — if he died — while living happily ever after. Can any human being ask for more?”