In Memory of Ernest A. Becker III, 1919-1999
Excerpt from “Becker Middle School yearbook 1999-2000”
Ernest A. Becker III, our school’s namesake, was a pioneer, a visionary, and an inspiration to many. His most important achievements were family, home building, and contributions to our community and country – a legacy that lives on!
Ernie’s success did not happen overnight. It took many years of hard work and a strong will to make his dreams come true. Born in Southern California on April 6, 1919 and given the same name as his father and grandfather, Ernie was destined to follow their lead and carry the name to new heights.
At the young age of thirteen, Ernie’s part-time jobs included cleaning model homes and watering trees for his father and delivering the Saturday Evening Post. Every summer thereafter, he worked in a variety of building crafts, learning each phase of home building. It was apparent that Ernie was eager to learn everything he could about the construction industry in order to earn a living in the future. By the time he graduated from high school, Ernie had earned a full scholarship to the University of Southern California. A proud USC football player, Ernie was always reaching for the stars even if it meant cleaning the swimming pool on campus to earn extra money. While still attending USC, he fulfilled another dream by entering into his first joint venture, and a very successful one, which involved building a tract of 96 homes.
On April 18, 1941, Ernie married Betty. Sharing the dream of starting a family, they had four sons, Ernest IV, Barry, Randall, and Bruce. During this time, World War II had started, and Ernie enlisted in the US Coast Guard which took him away from family and home building temporarily.
After his discharge from the US Coast Guard, Ernie started building homes in the San Fernando Valley of California. He attended conventions and joined associations related to home building while constantly searching for future opportunities to expand his home building business, and his constant attention paid off time and again. He was given a tip that Howard Hughes was going to buy property on the west side of Las Vegas, and with this tip, coupled with advice from his dad to “…buy land on the high side of town,” Ernie decided to take a gamble. With the Nevada Test Site and Nellis Air Force Base heralding the potential for growth in Las Vegas, Ernie anticipated that housing was going to be needed, and purchasing land in Las Vegas proved to be one of the most important decisions in his career.
In the early 1950’s after Ernie purchased several hundred acres of land on the western edge of Las Vegas, he decided to construct his first housing development. This area is still known as Charleston Heights, and it included housing, shopping centers, and gas stations. During this time, he created the High School Student Plan drawing contest which gave students the opportunity to create their own home plans. Ernie then constructed the winning student plans. Having a strong desire to provide affordable housing to low-income families, he became a member of the National Association of Home Builders in order to realize this dream. After serving on numerous committees and holding many offices, he became president in 1978. Through his work in this association, affordable housing became an option for everyone regardless of income level.
In the 1960’s, he continued to be a man of vision and a leader in the homebuilding industry. Now, with the help of his sons, the Becker business grew as they created and built the Charleston Heights Bowl which is now known as Arizona Charlie’s Hotel and Casino, named after Ernie’s uncle, Charlie Meadows. As the business grew, so did his family. Ernie was “Granddad” to nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
As his home building endeavors flourished, Ernie shared his blessings with the community by donating land to be used for schools, churches, and parks and to enhance educational opportunities at the university of Southern California and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His last donation was to the National Association of Home Builders Endowment Fund which provides scholarships to those who want to further their education in the building industry.
Ernie’s favorite pastime, in addition to sports and “talking business,” was gardening. If he wasn’t in the office, he was planting flowers or pruning roses. The rose garden in the quad at Becker Middle School is a living tribute to his love of roses, his generosity to the school, and his positive example to students and staff that hard work reaps great rewards!
It was not only Ernie’s strong desire to make his dreams come true but the fact that he had the loyalty and support of his beautiful wife, Betty, for almost 60 years that made the Becker family one of the most successful families in the Las Vegas Valley today. His generosity to the community of Las Vegas is one that his family plans to continue in the future to ensure that his legacy will grow and flourish like the flowers he loved.