Tourists take pictures on Feb 12, 2009 in front of the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" neon sign in Las Vegas. Betty Willis, the woman who designed the iconic neon sign that has welcomed countless visitors to Las Vegas since 1959 has died.
Tourists take pictures on Feb 12, 2009 in front of the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" neon sign in Las Vegas. Betty Willis, the woman who designed the iconic neon sign that has welcomed countless visitors to Las Vegas since 1959 has died.  Jae C. Hong—AP

Designer Who Created the Iconic 'Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas' Sign Has Died

Apr 21, 2015

Nevada graphic designer Betty Willis, who created the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign that became a globally recognized icon of hedonism, died Monday at age 91, according to the Neon Museum.

Her design, gifted to Las Vegas in 1959, is emblematic of Googie architecture, with its characteristic futuristic motifs. Although the sign is formally owned by the Young Electric Sign Co., its image remains perennially in the public domain, with reprints adorning all manner of Vegas memorabilia from coffee mugs to T-shirts.

"Visitors see the sign with the twinkle in it and know they've got a license to enjoy themselves," former Las Vegas mayor Oscar B. Goodman told the New York Times in 2005.

Willis was brought up outside Las Vegas and worked at Western Neon in 1952, after attending school in Los Angeles in 1952. "We thought the town was fabulous, so we added the word,” she once said.

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