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Las Vegas Airport Could Be Named for Harry Reid Under County Proposal

A new effort is underway to rename McCarran International Airport near the Las Vegas Strip for former US Sen. Harry Reid (D).

Former US Sen. Harry Reid (D) gestures during a speaking engagement. Some on the Clark County Commission want to name McCarran airport after Reid. (Image: Boston Globe)

Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom (D) is working with the county’s legal staff on an ordinance to change the airport’s name to honor Reid, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The airport is now named for former US Sen. Pat McCarran (D).

When Segerblom was a state senator four years ago, he also filed a bill seeking the Reid name-change. The measure stalled in committee at the Capitol in Carson City.

Segerblom’s new proposal is expected to come up at a public hearing during a County Commission meeting in two weeks. 

The airport is in Clark County, outside Las Vegas city limits. It is just east of the Strip, near the Tropicana and other hotel-casinos at the southern end of the resort corridor. 

The county’s Department of Aviation manages the airport. This gives the seven-member County Commission a say in any name change. However, the Federal Aviation Administration would have to agree to the change, the newspaper reported.

As the commission considers this change, the airport has lost about 29 million travelers during the pandemic. This slump in air travel has led to lower occupancy rates at hotel-casinos in the Las Vegas Valley.

Letter to Governor

At the commission meeting, Segerblom said McCarran’s record was not good.

The name doesnt represent the diversity of our community,” Segerblom said.

McCarran was born in Reno 11 years after the Civil War. When he was first elected to the Senate in 1938, the state only had about 90,000 people, according to Jerome E. Edwards, author of Pat McCarran, Political Boss of Nevada. McCarran died in 1954.

In a letter this summer to Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) and state legislative leaders, Nevada’s Democratic congressional delegation said McCarran “perpetuated the very hate and bigotry we are seeking to dismantle today.”

The delegation asked that McCarran’s bust be replaced at the US Capitol by someone who better represents the state’s values. The governor and Legislature would handle that process.

As Senator, McCarran sought to exploit the rhetoric and fear of the McCarthy era by restricting immigration, including Jewish immigration after the Holocaust,” the June letter states.

The letter adds that while McCarran “fought for workersrights and sponsored legislation that helped shape the modern air travel industry, his dark legacy of virulent racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia have no place representing Nevada.”

Hoods Threatened Him’

Commissioners William McCurdy II and Justin Jones (both D) support the name change, the newspaper reported.

I cant think of anyone who has done more for the state of Nevada and also our country than former Sen. Harry Reid,” McCurdy said.

Reid, 81, is a longtime Nevada elected official who rose to the position of the majority leader of the US Senate.

Earlier in Reid’s career, his 1977 appointment to the chairmanship of the Nevada Gaming Commission put him in difficult situations with underworld figures in Las Vegas, according to journalist Dennis Myers.

“For four years, Reid dealt with casino problems, including organized crime. Hoods threatened him and tried to bribe him. A bomb was planted in his car. The experience rebuilt his reputation while giving him entrée to casino support missing from his earlier political career,” Myers wrote.

Reid’s public clash with Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal, who oversaw four Las Vegas casinos for Midwestern mobsters, was dramatized in the 1995 movie Casino. Dick Smothers portrayed a character based on Reid.

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