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Photograph of Mayor Oran K, Gragson speaking at the pre-telethon production meeting, Las Vegas, Nevada, 1974


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Las Vegas Mayor Oran K. Gragson (at the podium) addressing the general session at the pre-telethon production meeting for the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon at the Sahara Hotel and Casino. Oran Kenneth Gragson (February 14, 1911 – October 7, 2002) was an American businessman and politician. He was the longest-serving mayor of Las Vegas, Nevada, from 1959 to 1975. Gragson, a member of the Republican Party, was a small business owner who was elected Mayor on a reform platform against police corruption and for equal opportunity for people of all socio-economic and racial categories. Gragson died in a Las Vegas hospice on October 7, 2002, at the age of 91. The Oran K. Gragson Elementary School located at 555 N. Honolulu Street, Las Vegas, NV 89110 was named in his honor. The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon was an annual telethon held each Labor Day in the United States to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). The show was founded and hosted by actor and comedian Jerry Lewis, who hosted the broadcast from its 1966 inception until 2010. The history of MDA's telethon dated back to the 1950s, when the Jerry Lewis Thanksgiving Party for MDA raised funds for the organization's New York City area operations. The telethon was held annually on Labor Day weekend beginning in 1966, and would raise $2.45 billion for MDA from its inception through 2009. The telethon aired up to 21½ hours, starting on the Sunday evening preceding Labor Day and continuing until late Monday afternoon on the holiday itself. MDA called its network of participating stations the "Love Network". The show originated from Las Vegas for 28 of the years it was broadcast. Beginning in 2011, coinciding with Lewis's controversial departure, MDA radically reformatted and shortened the telethon's format into that of a benefit concert, shortening the length of the special each successive year. Successive telethons from 2012 to 2014 renamed the show as the MDA Show of Strength and further cut its airtime. The 2012 edition was reduced to three hours as a primetime-only broadcast. The 2012 edition did not refer itself as a "telethon". The 2013 Show of Strength discontinued the long-standing format of being syndicated to individual stations of varying network affiliation and aired on a major national network instead of being syndicated to individual stations, airing on ABC on Sunday, September 1, 2013, and being reduced to two hours. While the 2012 edition did not refer itself as a "telethon", it referred itself as such for the 2013 edition. The final edition, for 2014, aired on ABC on August 31, again as a two-hour special beginning at 9PM ET/PT. This was the final edition for the telethon, as it was announced on May 1, 2015 that the MDA would be discontinuing the annual event.

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pho017983. Oran K. Gragson Photographs. PH-00310. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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