County Commission Votes to Name Las Vegas McCarran Airport After Harry Reid

Posted on: February 16, 2021, 03:58h. 

Last updated on: February 16, 2021, 06:22h.

The Clark County Commission on Tuesday voted unanimously to rename McCarran International Airport after former US Sen. Harry Reid (D).

Harry Reid Airport
Former US Sen. Harry Reid gestures during a public appearance in 2018. The Clark County Commission has voted to name the Las Vegas airport after Reid. (Image: Roll Call)

In a 7-0 vote, the commission agreed to send the request for a name change to the Federal Aviation Administration. The proposed name is Harry Reid International Airport.

The FAA has the authority to approve the name change and will analyze the request, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Reid, 81, is a longtime Nevada public official who became US Senate majority leader in 2007.

Commissioner Tick Segerblom (D), who tried unsuccessfully as a state legislator to change the airport’s name, has said Reid’s name is well-known outside the area and represents progress.

The airport name change is expected to cost $2 million. Segerblom said the money will come from private donors, not taxpayers.  He said the name change could take years to complete.

The airport is in Clark County, outside Las Vegas city limits. It is at the  southeastern end of the Strip, near the Tropicana, MGM Grand, and other hotel-casinos.

The countys Department of Aviation manages the airport.

‘A Different Nevada’

Last week, two university presidents released a letter in support of changing the airport name to honor Reid. The university presidents are Keith Whitfield of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Brian Sandoval of the University of Nevada, Reno. Sandoval is a former Nevada Republican governor.

The university presidents were critical of McCarran’s record on race and other matters.

We are committed to equity and inclusion, and we stand together against the late Pat McCarrans legacy of racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia,” the letter states.

McCarran, who was born 11 years after the Civil War, served in the US Senate from 1932 until his death in 1954. When he was first elected, the state’s population was 90,000. The population now exceeds 3 million, according to the US Census Bureau.

During his time in office, McCarran sponsored the Civil Aeronautics Act, which included testing and licensing of pilots, certification of aircraft, and investigation of accidents. He also was a proponent of establishing the US Air Force. He also was behind the 1946 Administrative Procedure Act, described as a “Bill of Rights” for Americans whose affairs are controlled or regulated” by federal agencies.

Nevadas Democratic congressional delegation submitted a letter to state officials last summer, stating that McCarran had a dark legacy of virulent racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia.”

Segerblom has said McCarran “represents a Nevada that no longer exists.”

From my perspective, if you put Harry Reids name on there, it shows the world that we are a different Nevada,” he said.

Others sought a nonpolitical name change, including calling the site the Las Vegas International Airport. Detractors have said the airport name might have to be changed again in the future if at some point Reid falls out of favor with a majority of those who make these decisions.

Gaming Commission Clash

In addition to serving in the state Legislature, Reid was lieutenant governor in the early 1970s. He also served in the US House of Representatives before winning election to the US Senate.

In 1977, Gov. Mike O’Callaghan (D) appointed Reid chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. 

In that role, Reid clashed with Mob associate Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal at a high-profile public meeting. Rosenthal oversaw four Las Vegas casinos for Midwestern crime families. The confrontation was dramatized in the 1995 Las Vegas Mafia movie Casino. 

Shortly after he left the post, a bomb was planted in Reid’s car, but it did not ignite.