Commission to consider renaming Las Vegas airport for Harry Reid

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John Locher/AP

Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid fills out his ballot at an early voting site at the East Las Vegas library, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020, in Las Vegas.

Published Tue, Feb 2, 2021 (12:36 p.m.)

Updated Tue, Feb 2, 2021 (1:25 p.m.)

The Clark County Commission will consider renaming McCarran International Airport for former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.

Commissioner Tick Segerblom proposed the change at today’s commission meeting. The matter will return to the commission for more discussion and consideration on Feb. 16.

Segerblom said the airport’s namesake Pat McCarran, another former U.S. senator from Nevada, “doesn’t represent the diversity of our community.”

The Las Vegas airport was named in 1968 for McCarran, who was an aviation proponent and represented Nevada in the Senate from 1933 until his death in 1954.

But he has been criticized in more recent years for a history of virulent racism, anti-Semitism and xenophobia.

After World War II, McCarran was instrumental in limiting the number of Jewish refugees allowed to enter the U.S., made anti-Semitic remarks and blocked some of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Jewish judicial nominees.

He was also the principal sponsor of the McCarran Internal Security Act, which required Communist organizations to register with the federal government and established the Subversive Activities Control Board. The board was integral to the Second Red Scare of the 1950s, in which many Americans were accused of and punished for ties to communism, true or not.

At today’s meeting, commissioners Will McCurdy and Justin Jones supported renaming the airport for Reid, who represented Nevada in the Senate from 1987 to 2017.

Reid, 81, was the Democratic Senate Majority Leader from 2007 to 2015.

“I can't think of anyone who has done more for the state of Nevada, and also our country, than former Sen. Harry Reid,” McCurdy said.

Jones, a longtime friend of the Reid family, said Reid “has changed Nevada for history and he certainly is deserving of that kind of an honor.”

A similar proposal to rename the airport after Reid and remove McCarran’s statue from the U.S. Capitol was introduced in the state Senate in 2017 but died. Nevada’s three Democratic members of the U.S. House backed the statue removal.

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