Betty Willis (artist)

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Betty Willis
Betty Jane Whitehead

(1923-05-20)May 20, 1923
DiedApril 19, 2015(2015-04-19) (aged 91)
Overton, Nevada, U.S.
OccupationGraphic designer
Years active1942–1999
Known forDesigning the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign
Parent(s)Stephen R. Whithead
Willis' Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, completed in 1959.

Betty Jane Willis (née Whitehead; May 20, 1923 – April 19, 2015) was an American visual artist and graphic designer.[1][2] Born in Overton, Nevada,[3][4] she is best known for having been the designer of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, and has been attributed to being an influencer in defining modern Las Vegas' visual image.


Willis born on May 20, 1923 in Overton, Nevada,[5] the daughter of Stephen R. Whitehead, the first assessor of Clark County, Nevada,[2] and homemaker Gertrude Meader.[5] She went to Los Angeles in 1942 where she attended art school and drew ads for Fox West Coast Theaters.[2] Betty returned to Las Vegas where she first took a job at the courthouse, then worked as a commercial artist before moving on to designing neon signs at Western Neon.[1][2] It was there that she designed her signature piece, the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, completed in 1959.[1] Willis never trademarked the design, later saying "It's my gift to the city."[6]

Willis is also known for designing the signs for the Moulin Rouge Hotel and the Blue Angel Motel.[6] She continued designing signs until she retired at the age of 77.[1] She died at the age of 91 at her home in Overton in 2015.[7][8]

Signs designed[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "People & Events". PBS. Retrieved May 13, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d Brown, Patricia Leigh (January 13, 2005). "At Home With: Betty Willis; A Neon Come-Hither, Still Able to Flirt". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2009.
  3. ^ "Betty Willis, whose sign welcomed visitors to 'fabulous' Las Vegas, dies". Washington Post. April 19, 2015. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
  4. ^ "Betty Willis, who designed iconic 'Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas' sign, dead at 91 (VIDEO)". New York Daily News. Associated Press. April 19, 2015. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Roberts, Sam (April 22, 2015). "Betty Willis, Whose Sign Defined Las Vegas, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Katsilometes, John (2008-06-09). "Famed designer Willis never tires of, "What's your sign?"". Las Vegas Weekly. Retrieved 2009-05-13.
  7. ^ Carter, Geoff. "Design Legends Betty Willis and Brian 'Buzz' Leming Die". DTLV. Archived from the original on 26 April 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  8. ^ Barker, Aaron (April 20, 2015). "Woman who designed iconic Las Vegas welcome sign dies". KVVU-TV. Retrieved April 21, 2015.
  9. ^ "Home". Moulin Rouge Museum & Cultural Center. Archived from the original on 2010-07-25. Retrieved 2010-03-28.