LAS VEGAS — Avid awards show fans may already have the 70th annual Primetime Emmy Awards penciled in on their calendars for Sept. 17 – but how many know that a Michigan City native has already won an Emmy?
For his video editing of “African Americans: The Las Vegas Experience,” Reginald “Reggie” Edwards, a 1994 graduate of Elston High School, won the Editor-Program Emmy at the 2018 Pacific Southwest Emmy Awards ceremony in June.
The documentary is a piece he worked on for Vegas PBS, where he’s been a videographer and editor for the past four years. As a group, those who produced it also won the Historical/Cultural-Program/Special Emmy. And it was nominated for a third award for the writing.
“Working on this documentary was a great experience because I got the opportunity to tell the story of my people’s plight out here in Las Vegas,” Edwards said during a phone interview Monday.
He said most people know Las Vegas casinos and theaters were established by the Mafia for the entertainment of men moving to the area to work on the Boulder Dam, now called the Hoover Dam.
But the part of history less talked about, he said, is black people’s struggle to find gainful employment in Vegas after they migrated to the area to escape the South during the Civil Rights Era.
“They couldn’t get jobs in the front of the casino; they could only work back-of-the-house jobs, like dishwashers and things like that. They couldn’t be seen parking cars or working up front or even hanging on the strip. They had to come into work through the back and then go back to where they lived on the west side of the city,” Edwards said.
The documentary consisted of interviews with blacks whose parents moved to Vegas for a better life, and those who were pioneers in their fields, from the first African American allowed to work as a dealer beginning in the 1970s, to the first black school principal.
“African Americans: The Las Vegas Experience” is the second documentary to which Edwards contributed, but the first he submitted for Emmy consideration.
“This is my 20th year working in the media,” Edwards said. “I’ve never really done any of this for recognition; I still don’t. But it was nice having my work judged by my peers and being recognized for doing what I’ve been working at since college.
“And my parents, my family, my friends, my old college and high school classmates – they were all so happy and emotional when I won. So, that brought a different feeling to it for me. It felt like everybody won it with me.”
Edwards was back in Michigan City last week to visit family when he was approached about the possibility of returning as a guest speaker and mentor for local students, an idea to which he said he’s open.
“I’d tell them to follow their dreams and do what they need to do, and it will work out,” he said.
In addition to his full-time position at Vegas PBS, Edwards does videography for the University of Nevada-Las Vegas on a part-time basis; is a freelance videographer and editor; and recently obtained his real estate license.
He worked for the CBS and Fox affiliates in Las Vegas prior to joining PBS.
Before he moved west in 2010, Edwards worked for the Fox affiliate in Indianapolis, where he lived for 12 years after graduating from St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer in 1998.