Nearly half a century ago during a visit to Southern Nevada, President John F. Kennedy predicted that the then fledgling City of Henderson was a "city of destiny." Little could he have known just how accurate a prediction he was making.
Henderson was actually "born in America's defense" ten years prior to its incorporation during World War II with the building of the Basic Magnesium Plant. The plant supplied the US War Department with magnesium for munitions and airplane parts. Former Mayor Jim Gibson's own grandfather, Fred Gibson, was one of the original engineers sent to Great Britain to learn the secret of creating the "miracle metal" which would eventually help the United States and the allies win the war.
However, in 1947, magnesium production was no longer necessary for defense and most of the 14,000 BMI employees moved away. Enrollment in the school system was reduced by two thirds and well over half the townsite houses, built to house plant workers, went vacant. In 1947 the United States War Asset Administration actually offered Henderson for sale as war surplus property.
In an effort to save the city, the Nevada Legislature spent a weekend visiting Henderson evaluating the possibility of state administration of Basic Magnesium. Within days of the visit, the legislators unanimously approved a bill giving the Colorado River Commission of Nevada the authority to purchase the industrial plants. Governor Vail Pittman signed the Bill on March 27, 1947, helping save Henderson from becoming war surplus property.
With the help of local industry, the City of Henderson, Nevada, was officially incorporated on April 16, 1953. On May 23, 1953, Henderson, with its population of 7,410, elected Dr. Jim French as the town's first Mayor. Originally about 13 square miles in size, the City quickly began to grow and flourish. Today, the City of Henderson has grown to more than 103 square miles and is the second largest city in Nevada. Henderson is often referred to as having small town values with big city efficiencies. The city's official slogan "Henderson-a Place to Call Home" reflects a community that enjoys small town values while benefiting from big city efficiencies.
An increasing number of major shopping malls, movie theater complexes, restaurants and casino resorts offer residents a variety of choices for leisure time. "Shakespeare in the Park" celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2011, a testament to the community's long standing support for the arts and cultural programs. The City also boasts the largest recreational facility – Henderson Multigenerational Center – in Nevada as well as Nevada's only scenic Bird Preserve. The City supports a variety of other cultural events as well, many of which are held at the outdoor amphitheater – Henderson Pavilion – the largest one of its kind in Nevada.
Henderson is also located just a few miles from McCarran International Airport, and the Henderson Executive Airport, recently acquired by Clark County, has completed major renovations and serves as a reliever airport to McCarran. With the recent completion of I-215 into Henderson, the City is more accessible than ever.
Of all the cities within Clark County, Henderson has perhaps the brightest future for Southern Nevada. Master-planned residential areas, progressive business development, new roads and public works projects, outstanding parks and recreation facilities and schools serve to make Henderson, Nevada one of the nation's most dynamic communities, preserving President Kennedy's "city of destiny" vision so many years ago and laying the foundation for 50 more years as one of the nation's best and brightest stars.