Claudine Williams was a 'standup lady'

Jun 16, 2009 5:08 PM
by Ray Poirier | Hundreds of friends and former co-workers of Nevada gaming pioneer Claudine Williams, who died at age 88 last month, gathered at Harrah’s Hotel/Casino on the Las Vegas Strip Saturday to share stories of how she touched their lives.

They remembered that Claudine Williams broke the glass ceiling for female casino executives by taking the helm of the Holiday Inn-Holiday Casino, a property she and her husband later sold to Harrah’s. Even then, she stayed involved, maintaining an office at Harrah’s as company chairman.

Longtime casino executive and associate of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammed Ali, Gene Kilroy, reminisced about his personal involvement with Claudine.

"She was such a standup lady," Gene said, "always there to help you out.

"Back in 1971 when Ali was in town to fight Quarry," Gene related, "Billy Wineberger mentioned that Caesars Palace was sold out. But Ali needed a room for his mother, whom he called Mama Bird.

"Billy said he would call Claudine Williams and see if she could help. Not only did she accommodate Mama Bird at Harrah’s but provided her with a bigger suite than Ali had.

"She treated Ali’s mother like royalty…just like she was the Queen Mother of England. Ali said his mother had the time of her life thanks to Claudine."

Just one of many stories shared in the wake of Claudine Williams’ passing.