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Few of the 45 million passengers who passed through McCarran International Airport last year likely gave much thought to the reputation of its namesake, Sen. Patrick McCarran, who died in 1954.
The most frequently visited place in Clark County is named after a racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, Red-baiting politician. At least those are the labels many historians pin to him.
Current state Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom has thought about it, and thinks McCarran's accomplishments — chief justice of the Nevada Supreme Court, a visionary for the Air Force and a modern aviation system and a long-time U.S. Senator — are not enough to outweigh the negative.
"Having an airport named after McCarran is comparable to having the Confederate flag in South Carolina hung over the state capitol," Segerblom said. "It's a legacy, but it's time is done.
Segerblom has proposed a bill for the 2017 Legislature to rename the airport Harry Reid International Airport in honor of the state’s senior senator, who chose not to run for re-election this year.
"If you look at any area of our state government or politics, you can see Harry Reid's fingerprints," Segerblom said. "He's done so much and he's willing to get in there and do the stuff that no one else wants to touch because it's messy."
Segerblom acknowledged, however, that some may not think very highly of those fingerprints. The likelihood of the bill passing may largely depend on the outcome of the November election, and which party winds up in control of the state legislature.
"Whether the governor would sign it or not is another story," Segerblom said.
Segerblom reassured KNPR listeners that travel arrangements would not change — LAS is the city's identifying code.
While not specifically outlining a cost, Segerblom said it would be minimal compared to the symbolism of such a change.
Segerblom contends that having McCarran’s name on the community’s welcome mat makes a poor fit for today’s Nevada, which endured a history of racism en route to becoming one of the nation’s most diverse states.
"This would symbolize that we are this new Nevada as opposed to that old Nevada," he said.
Sen. Richard "Tick" Segerblom, seeks to rename McCarran International Airport