Close up of Nevada Writers Hall of Fame medal

Hal Rothman

2004 Nevada Writers Hall of Fame Inductee


Hal Rothman was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 11, 1958, and grew up in Illinois. In high school he was a three-sport letter man and graduated at age 16. He interrupted his undergraduate education to spend five years working as a roadie for various rock 'n' roll bands. He earned his B.A. degree at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 1980 and a M.A. degree in literature at the University of Texas at Austin in 1982. His 1985 doctoral dissertation at UT-Austin was a cultural history of the American national monuments. During this time, he taught part-time at the University of New Mexico campuses in Albuquerque and Los Alamos and wrote a book about Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. This led to his writing other congressionally mandated histories of national parks and working as a contract historian for the National Park Service. While an assistant professor of history at Wichita State University from 1987 to 1992, he launched a public history program aimed at involving non-academics with historic preservation. He was an editor and writer for the Development of Western Resources series for the University Press of Kansas and was on the editorial board for the New Mexico Historical Review. He was also editor of the journal Environmental History and served on the board of the Forest History Society. He joined the History Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1992, when it began its doctoral program in western history, and served as Department Chair from 2002 to 2005. He made significant contributions to the field of environmental history and was an active member of the American Historical Association's Pacific Coast Branch. As a nationally recognized expert on tourism and post-industrial economies, he was widely quoted by journalists, an invited guest for many national media programs, appeared in documentaries about Las Vegas, and was dubbed by Slate Magazine as "the foremost guru of the new Las Vegas." He began hosting the weekly "Our Metropolis" radio show on KUNV-FM in 2004. He was a columnist for Window from 1982-85, for the Austin Chronicle from 1984-85, for High Country NewsLas Vegas CityLife, the Las Vegas Sun, and The Los Angeles TimesHe also did blog work for In 2006, the Nevada Press Association awarded him first place for Best Explanatory Journalism and Best Local Nonstaff Column for his Las Vegas Sun work.

Rothman was a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in 1986. The National Council on Public History selected his article, "Forged by One Man's Will" for its G. Wesley Johnson Award in 1987. In 1992, UNLV's College of Arts and Letters recognized him with its William Morris Award for Excellence in Scholarship. He received the Spur Award for Best Contemporary Nonfiction from the Western Writers of America in 1999 for Devil's Bargains. The Texas Philosophical Society honored him with its Award of Merit for Best Book in Texas History in 2001 for Our Heart's Home. Also in 2001, he received the UNLV Alumni Association's Distinguished Scholar Award. In 2004, he became the third UNLV professor to receive the Harry Reid Silver State Research Award. In 2006, he was named UNLV's fourteenth Distinguished Professor. Also in 2006, he received the American Society for Environmental History's Distinguished Service Award. Later that year, he was honored as Chin's Humanitarian of the Year. He posthumously received the Community Achievement Award by the Nevada Broadcasters Association in September 2007.

Rothman was an active member of the Midbar Kodesh Temple, which he helped found in Henderson, Nevada. A bicycle enthusiast, he also helped establish the Paseo Verde Little League, a community bicycle committee. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) in December 2005, and died on February 25, 2007. He was survived by his wife, Lauralee Paige, his son Brent and his daughter Talia; his parents, Neal and Rozann Rothman of Indianapolis, and two sisters. As a testimony to his effectiveness as a teacher and mentor, a group of his graduate students undertook the completion of five of his research projects after his death, ensuring their publication.