Jack Cason set out for Nevada in the early 1950s, leaving his native Oklahoma to manage a few gas stations that the small oil company he worked for planned to open in Las Vegas.
A few years later that company got cold feet about Las Vegas and left, according to Review-Journal archives. Cason stayed, and to say things worked out well would be an understatement.
“I saw an opportunity where if you worked hard, you could make something of yourself. The city grew, and I just grew with it,” Cason, then 77, said in a Review-Journal story before his induction into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
Cason, who as one of the founders of the Rebel Oil Company would eventually become one of the largest fuel providers in Southern Nevada, and who would draw upon that business success to support youth sports and UNLV athletics, died on Feb. 4 at his home.
He was 95.
Along with his business acumen, which drove the proliferation of dozens of Rebel gas stations and convenience stores, Cason left his mark on Las Vegas by supporting local sports.
“He had the Rebel gas stations before UNLV even had the name Rebel. So we’ve definitely got some serious roots in Las Vegas,” his granddaughter, Gina Carano, said in a 2013 Las Vegas Sun story.
Carano, a former mixed martial artist who starred in “Fast & Furious 6” and “Deadpool,” was the star point guard on Trinity Christian’s state championship basketball team in 2000. Cason, her grandfather, coached the team.
“I credit my grandfather for teaching me how to be aggressive in sports, and how to be tough,” Carano said in a 2007 Review-Journal story.
“They’re the greatest bunch of girls in the world. They fight, and they just never quit,” Cason said after the title-winning game on Feb. 25, 2000.
Staunch backer of local sports
Cason told the Review-Journal in 2004 he couldn’t count sheer number of local teams he has sponsored, how many kids he helped or how many summer jobs he gave to UNLV athletes. He helped Little League baseball and Pop Warner football and also sponsored women’s sports as well as high school rodeo teams and cheerleading groups.
“I love helping kids,” Cason said. “I always felt that athletics was such a positive experience. I got involved with my kids, and that led to other kids.”
After high school, where he played three sports, Cason joined the Navy just before the end of World War II and didn’t see any action while stationed in Hawaii. He then enrolled at Oklahoma on a football scholarship, but a knee injury kept him off the field. He played junior varsity basketball for the Sooners before leaving school for Las Vegas.
In a 1985 Review-Journal story, he spoke of why his company, which he had founded with his brother Pete Cason and Carl Bailey, took the name Rebel.
“We thought that people might think of a Rebel as somebody who would give you a lower price,” Cason said.
In 1994, Cason was inducted into the UNLV Athletics Hall of Fame as a distinguished contributor.
Athletics Director Erick Harper said in an email Saturday that the department sends prayers to the Cason family.
“Jack Cason and the Cason Family have been longtime supporters of UNLV Athletics,” Harper said. “Their impact has been felt for many years as they made contributions that enhanced the student-athlete experience through scholarship.”
The longtime UNLV assistant football coach and athletics administrator was on the Hall of Fame selection board when Cason was selected for induction.
“He was one of the real pioneers of UNLV athletics and specifically football,” Cottle said. “If you needed things done Jack was the guy.”
‘All about the kids’
According to Cottle, Cason was one of a group of about 100 people who donated the money needed to start the UNLV football program in 1968. Cottle, who met Cason in the 1980s when Cottle joined the football team’s coaching staff, described Cason as a “quiet giver” and a great human being who was humble and reserved.
“He was all about the kids, the players,” Cottle said. “Jack really wasn’t into having his name on buildings and stuff like that. He wanted to help kids.”
Cason was active with the Rebel Football Foundation, and he was a scholarship donor, helped with fundraisers and banquets and hired UNLV student-athletes to his company, according to Cottle.
“He leaves a lasting legacy of that generation of guys that were peers of Jack’s; they were really the movers and shakers of Las Vegas,” Cottle said.
Cason is survived by his wife, Maxine, to whom he was married for 73 years. They have six grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
Contact Brett Clarkson at email@example.com. Follow @BrettClarkson_ on Twitter. Contact David Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @davidwilson_RJ on Twitter.