Herman Milton “Hank” Greenspun was one of the most influential people in Las Vegas after the Second World War.
His life was a constant adventure… He was the owner of the Las Vegas Sun newspaper, he was involved in weapon transactions and in the Watergate scandal, he was an important real estate investor in the Las Vegas Valley, he was an important figure that influenced the development of Las Vegas.
Early years, education, military
Greenspun was born in 1909 in Brooklyn, New York. He studied law and entered the American Army and fought in the Second World War in Europe, being decorated with Croix de Guerre for his courage in the Battle of Falaise Gap. In 1945 he became a Major and, after the end of the war, he moved to Vegas.
First years in Las Vegas
His first business was a fun weekly newspaper called Las Vegas Life. The business was not a success, so he started working for Bugsy Siegel as a PR agent for his new hotel, Flamingo, until his death in 1947.
He then sent stolen weapons from the American Navy to Palestine through an illegal transport to support the struggle of the Jews there in their desire to create an independent state. Greenspun was charged with violating the Neutrality Act and fined $ 10,000.
In 1950 he bought the Las Vegas Free Press newspaper with a loan from Nate Mack – a Vegas pioneer, landlord and businessman, he renamed the newspaper Las Vegas Sun and turned it into a daily newspaper. The newspaper condemned the anti-Semitic attacks that took place at that time, criticizing everyone, from the IRS, the FBI and the CIA to Howard Hughes, and fighting an open war with the propaganda system of the well-known Democrat senator Pat McCarran. But the most important war was with the head of the famous anti-communist senate commission that stirred American political life in the 1950s, Joseph McCarthy, whom he accused of demagogy and anti-communist “witch hunting”.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy canceled Greenspun’s criminal conviction and therefore he regained his right to run for office. The following year, Greenspun, a member of the Republican Party, tried to get the nomination for the governor of the state of Nevada, but was defeated by the mayor of Las Vegas, Oran Gragson.
The Watergate scandal and his involvement
On June 17, 1972, Virgilio González, Bernard Barker, James W. McCord, Jr., Eugenio Martinez and Frank Sturgis were arrested while placing electronic devices in the Democratic Party’s campaign offices in an apartment building called Watergate, and it came out that the people working for President Richard Nixon wanted to intercept the talks of Larry O’Brien, the chairman of the National Democratic Committee. The Watergate scandal developed from this incident, leading to ample investigations, Congress hearings, and enormous media coverage for the two following years.
McCord admitted that this group (known as the “plumbers”) was involved in several secret activities. He even mentioned a plot to hack documents from Hank Greenspun. McCord confessed that General Prosecutor John N. Mitchell told him that Greenspun was in possession of information about a possible blackmail targeting a Democratic presidential candidate. It was known that Greenspun was a known republican, and it was assumed that Greenspun would use his political connections to influence the election.
Greenspun was also heavily involved in real estate, acquiring most of West Henderson, Nevada, for a real estate development that eventually became Green Valley. A large portion of the money used for the initial real estate investment was obtained through a loan from the Teamsters Union. His family now controls most of the related lands and real estate developments, including golf courses and Green Valley Ranch, Resort & Spa.
Hank was the first to launch a television in Nevada, KLAS TV. A school in Henderson was dedicated to Hank and Barbara Greenspun (his wife).
In 2008, SGP Media produced the documentary about the life of Hank Greenspun, a film narrated by the famous British actor Anthony Hopkins.
Las Vegas Sun today
Brian Greenspun, son of Hank Greenspun, continued with journalism after the death of his father, and Las Vegas Sun won many awards, including a 2009 Pulitzer Prize for the series of articles investigating deaths on the construction sites on the Las Vegas Strip and the failure of the government, management and trade unions to protect workers.
On July 22, 1989, Hank Greenspun died of cancer. Upon his death, the former Israeli prime minister said about Greenspun: “a hero of our country and a fighter for freedom – a great spirit who fought with his mind and soul, a man of great conviction and commitment.”