Las Vegas Reporter Tom Hawley, Chronicler of Casino History, Dies at 60

Posted on: October 16, 2021, 01:27h. 

Last updated on: October 16, 2021, 04:15h.

Veteran Las Vegas journalist Tom Hawley, whose “Video Vault” stories on KSNV-TV chronicled the city’s casino history and more, has died of pancreatic cancer. He was 60.

Tom Hawley
Tom Hawley, a longtime reporter for KSNV-TV Channel 3 in Las Vegas, poses near the station’s helicopter. Hawley was known as Chopper Tom for his reporting from the helicopter. (Image: KSNV-TV)

Hawley had been known for years as “Chopper Tom” because of his reporting on traffic and other live news from Channel 3’s helicopter. 

In addition to his live reporting skills, Hawley used his knowledge of the area and storytelling talent in detailing the fast-changing city’s history for the Las Vegas NBC affiliate. 

Many of Hawley’s most memorable stories appeared in his “Video Vault” segment during newscasts. The topics he covered ranged from the trend to name Las Vegas casinos the Monte Carlo to mobster Tony “The Ant” Spilotro’s reign decades ago in Southern Nevada. 

Through the years, Hawley also reported extensively on failed plans to construct a high-speed train connecting Southern California to Las Vegas.  

Dana Wagner, a KSNV-TV anchor, recalled on the station’s website that Hawley’s humility came into play in deciding on a name for the “Video Vault” series.

The morning crew wanted to call the series “Hawley’s History,” Wagner said. Hawley said not to do that. He wanted his name taken off it, “and to just make the stories about the story,” the station noted.

‘Always a Joy to See Tom’

Hawley’s reputation for solid reporting included the deep research that went into his stories and his commitment to factual accuracy. When the station on Friday first reported his death, the UNLV Special Collections and Archives department tweeted their appreciation for his connection with them. In his final days, Hawley turned over thousands of files to the department, according to KSNV-TV.

The Special Collections and Archives tweet notes that those in the department who worked with Hawley “feel so fortunate” to have conducted an oral history with him and to have added his papers to their archive. 

It was always a joy to see Tom in our Reading Room researching one of his ‘Video Vault’ stories for @News3LV,” the tweet reads.

Hawley’s professionalism extended to making the workplace enjoyable, his colleagues noted in social media posts. Several coworkers tweeted pictures of the novelty neckties Hawley wore to work on Fridays. Over time, with Hawley tweeting pictures of the neckties himself, they became a fun part of Las Vegas news lore.

Musician, Mountain Climber

Hawley was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and lived in places such as Fayetteville, Arkansas before settling in Nevada.

This summer, Hawley made a return visit to Fayetteville, stopping at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in nearby Bentonville. He also went by a building in downtown Fayetteville, where he worked one summer years ago.  

Hawley’s father, Dave, was a musician who moved the family to Las Vegas in the 1960s. At many hotel-casinos on the Strip, Hawley saw his father perform for legendary headliners such as Dean Martin, Liza Minnelli, Wayne Newton, and Engelbert Humperdinck, the television station reported.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Tom Hawley played standup bass with the Henderson Symphony Orchestra and at clubs in the Las Vegas Valley.  

Hawley also enjoyed spending time in the outdoors, hiking in the Southern Nevada desert. The television station reported that he hiked to the top of Mount Charleston near Las Vegas 60 times — once for each year of his life.