|United States Senator|
March 4, 1933 - September 28, 1954
|Ernest S. Brown|
|Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nevada|
January 2, 1917 - January 4, 1919
|Frank Herbert Norcross|
|Benjamin Wilson Coleman|
|Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Nevada|
January 2, 1913 - January 1, 1917
|James G. Sweeney|
|Edward Augustus Ducker|
|Member of the Nevada Assembly|
Patrick Anthony McCarran
August 8, 1876
Reno, Nevada, U.S.
|Died||September 28, 1954 (aged 78)|
Hawthorne, Nevada, U.S.
|Resting place||Mountain View Cemetery, Reno, Nevada|
Patrick Anthony McCarran (August 8, 1876 - September 28, 1954) was a Democratic United States Senator from Nevada from 1933 until 1954. McCarran was born in Reno, Nevada, attended Nevada State University, and was a farmer and rancher. In 1902 he won election to the Nevada Assembly, but in 1904 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Nevada State Senate. He completed private law studies and was admitted to the bar in 1905; in 1906 he won election as Nye County's district attorney. He served a two-year term, after which he relocated to Reno.
From 1913 to 1917, McCarran was an associate justice of the Supreme Court of Nevada, and he served as chief justice from 1917 to 1919. In 1932 McCarran defeated Republican incumbent Tasker Oddie for Nevada's Class 3 Senate seat to become the state's first U.S. Senator born in Nevada; he was reelected three times, and served from 1933 until his death. In his Senate career, McCarran served as chairman of the District of Columbia, Judiciary, and Joint Foreign Economic Cooperation Committees. He died in Hawthorne, Nevada and was buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Reno. McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas was later named in his honor.
McCarran is remembered as one of the few Democrats to reject the New Deal. In addition, he was a proponent of the aviation industry; he was a sponsor of the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, and was a proponent of establishing the United States Air Force as a separate entity from the Army. McCarran was also an ardent anti-Communist, to the point of supporting fascists including Francisco Franco as a way to prevent its spread, and sponsored the McCarran Act, otherwise known as the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950.
McCarran was born in Reno, Nevada, the child of Irish immigrants Margaret Shay and Patrick McCarran. He was educated in Reno and in 1897, he graduated as valedictorian of his class at Reno High School. McCarran's mother was a devout Catholic, and he inherited his mother's faith.
He attended the University of Nevada, Reno, but withdrew to work on the family sheep ranch when his father suffered an injury. He studied law with William Woodburn, and served in the Nevada Assembly from 1903 to 1905. In 1904 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Nevada State Senate. He was admitted to the bar in 1905, and in 1906 he was elected district attorney of Nye County. He served one term, 1907-1909, after which he moved to Reno to continue practicing law.
Some sources incorrectly state that McCarran received a bachelor's degree in 1901 and a master's degree in 1915. In fact, he did not receive a bachelor's degree at all, and the master of arts he received from Nevada State University in 1915 was an honorary degree. He also received an honorary LL.D. from Georgetown University in 1943, and an honorary LL.D. from the University of Nevada in 1945.
In January 1917, he succeeded Frank Herbert Norcross as Chief Justice. He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1918, and served until January 1919, when he was succeeded on the court by Edward Augustus Ducker, and as Chief Justice by Benjamin Wilson Coleman.
Both during his time on the court and afterwards, McCarran continued to play a central role in Nevada's state government, as well as its legal and criminal justice systems. From 1913 to 1918, he served on the state Board of Library Commissioners. In addition, he served as chairman of the Nevada State University Board of Visitors.
From 1913 to 1919 he served on the state Board of Pardons. He was a member of the Board of Parole Commissioners from 1913 to 1918, and he served on the Board of Bar Examiners from 1919 until 1932.
McCarran's ambition to serve as a U.S. Senator was well known in Nevada, and often the subject of jokes in the press. He ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in 1916, and lost to incumbent Key Pittman. McCarran endorsed Pittman in the general election, and Pittman was reelected.
During his career as a Senator, McCarran served as chairman of the: Committee on the District of Columbia (77th and 78th Congresses); Committee on the Judiciary (78th, 79th, 81st, and 82nd Congresses); and Joint Committee on Foreign Economic Cooperation (81st United States Congress) (co-chairman).
During his first term as senator, McCarran was engaged in a major struggle for the control of patronage appointments relating to federal projects in Nevada with his fellow Democratic Senator, Key Pittman. As Nevada was a poor state badly hit by the Great Depression, there was considerable competition to be awarded a patronage appointment, and those who had control of patronage were in a strong position politically. As Pittman was the senior senator, and McCarran only a freshman senator, President Franklin D. Roosevelt tended to side with Pittman in the struggle for the control of patronage, thus earning McCarran's enmity. Much of McCarran's opposition to the New Deal stemmed from his anger and spite that Pittman was able to make more patronage appointments relating to New Deal projects in Nevada than he was. Pittman's increasing serious drinking problems rendered him somewhat ineffective in his last years, and McCarran was able to gradually take over the Democratic Party in Nevada, becoming the dominant force within the Nevada Democrats by 1938.
Despite being a Democrat, beginning in the late 1930s McCarran came into increasing opposition with Roosevelt, believing that Roosevelt's "second" New Deal policies following his 1936 reelection were too liberal. Further complicating the picture was that by 1939, Roosevelt was convinced that the Danzig crisis would probably lead to a war in Europe, and that it was in the best interests of the United States to ensure that Britain and France defeated Germany, which would require relaxing the various Neutrality Acts passed by Congress earlier in the 1930s. As Pittman was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his co-operation was essential. Thus for foreign policy reasons, Roosevelt had to back Pittman despite the way he was losing control of the Nevada Democrats to McCarran. From 1939 to 1941, the isolationist McCarran opposed Roosevelt's foreign policy of aiding the Allies, accusing the president of trying to involve America in a war that not its business. In particular, the Catholic conservative McCarran was outraged by the decision of the Roosevelt administration to offer military and economic aid to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, arguing that it was immoral to assist the "godless communists". In a speech on the Senate floor, McCarran declared that "I despise Mr. Hitler and all that he stands for, and equally I despise Mr. Stalin and all that he stands for", before going on to argue that through he did not like Nazi Germany that he regarded the Third Reich as the lesser evil compared to the Soviet Union, and felt it was profoundly wrong for the United States to offer aid to the nation he felt was the greater evil. McCarran was greatly influenced by a statement from the Catholic Church in the summer of 1941 declaring that "Communism is intrinsically wrong, and no one who would save Christian civilization may collaborate with it in any undertaking". McCarran supported the war effort after the United States entered the conflict following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
McCarran's positions on several key committees, most notably Appropriations and Judiciary, gave him significant influence that he used to obtain federal funding for Nevada, a fact which contributed substantially to his home state popularity. In 1944, McCarran was challenged by Vail M. Pittman in the Democratic primary, leading to an especially hard-fought campaign that was finally won by McCarran. At the time, Pittman explained his loss as due to McCarran's ability to bring federal money to fund infrastructure projects in Nevada, at the time a relatively backward state, saying:
"McCarran had a pet project in nearly every town in the state. Housing projects, sewage systems, airfields, power projects, school houses and heaven knows what...People remember the little personal favors and the things that help financially, but they forgot all the things done that are more remote, but more vital".
McCarran's biographer, Jerome Edwards, endorsed this theory, arguing that the narrow margin of McCarran's victory over Pittman in the Democratic primary suggests that a substantial number of registered Democrats in Nevada were dissatisfied with him, but his ability to have the federal government built infrastructure projects that Nevada could not afford on its own explains his enduring appeal in his state. Outside of Nevada, McCarran had the reputation of a narrow-minded and parochial senator who put the interests of Nevada ahead of the wider national interests; the same reasons that made him unpopular outside of Nevada made him popular there as he had the reputation of a dogged, relentless fighter for Nevada's interests. McCarran's repeatedly attempted via filibusters to force the federal government to stockpile silver, a measure that would have benefited Nevada where silver mining was a major industry, but was widely denounced outside of Nevada as a plan for wasteful spending designed only to benefit his state. After Pearl Harbor, McCarran in his speeches to the Senate made much of the fact that most of American industry was concentrated in the Northeast and the Midwest, and argued that the federal government had the duty to ensure that war production was shifted to less industrialized states like Nevada.
McCarran also was well known for his efforts to help constituents with any problems that they might have with the federal government, often going to extraordinary lengths. For instance, when a teenager from Nevada stolen 150 volumes from the Library of Congress and mutilated hundreds of more books, his parents asked McCarran to intervene to ensure that their son was not prosecuted. McCarran duly called up the Washington D.C. District Attorney Edward Curran and the FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, saying he not want the teenager prosecuted as that would cost him the votes of the parents of the bibliophobic vandal-thief, and owing to the senator's advocacy, the teenager was not prosecuted despite the overwhelming evidence of his guilt and his theft and destruction of books costing thousands of dollars. in 1942, when a Reno couple learned that their son had been captured by the Japanese at Wake Island, they appealed to McCarran for help. McCarran brought considerable pressure to bear on the State Department to set up a prisoner exchange, saying that it essential for him to keep the two votes of the parents of the POW, through the State Department insisted that the United States was not in the business of prisoner exchanges, which would involve making deals with the Axis powers that the American people would find unsavory.
In the 1940s-50s, 40% of Senate bills had to first be approved by the Senate Judiciary committee, giving McCarran immense power as he could easily "kill" these bills in his committee Other committee chairmen had the same powers over bills related to their fields, but the number of bills that had to passed by the Judiciary Committee made McCarran far more influential than the other senate committee chairmen. Over time, McCarran used his position as chairman of the Judiciary Committee to engage in much deal-making that allowed him to collect a significant number of political "debts", making him of the most powerful Senators. McCarran's conservative politics, which pitted him against first Roosevelt and then Truman, frequently led to the question being asked why he continue to sit as a Democrat instead of defecting over to the Republicans. In 1950, when McCarran asked that question by a reporter, he responded: "I can do more good by staying in the Democratic Party and watching the lunatic fringe-the Roosevelt crowd". McCarran was against the plans of the Roosevelt-Truman administrations for federal health insurance and increased education spending; favored restricting the power of unions; was opposed to increased immigration, saying he did not want "undesirables from abroad" coming to America; and was against the United Nations, which he called "a haven for spies and Communists". As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he appointed his friend, Senator James Eastland, a well known white supremacist and segregationist, as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Civil Rights. Such was McCarran's power that in July 1952, the liberal Washington Post newspaper (which was not friendly to the conservative McCarran) declared in an article: "It sums the character of this congress to state an unquestionable fact: that's its most important member was Patrick A. McCarran".
McCarran sponsored numerous laws concerning the early commercial aviation industry, including the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 and the Federal Airport Act of 1945. He was an early advocate of the Air Force as a military component separate from the Army, and began sponsoring the necessary legislation in 1933.
In 1945, McCarran co-sponsored the McCarran-Ferguson Act, which exempted the insurance industry from most federal regulations, including antitrust rules. Instead, this act required states to regulate insurance, including mandatory licensing requirements.
McCarran also co-sponsored the 1946 Administrative Procedures Act, which required federal agencies to keep the public informed of their organizational structure, procedures and rules, allowed for public participation in the rule making process, and established uniform standards for the conduct of formal rule making.
McCarran established himself as one of the Senate's most ardent anti-Communists. An admirer of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, he was nicknamed the "Senator from Madrid" by columnist Drew Pearson over his efforts to increase foreign aid to Spain. McCarran voted for President Harry S. Truman's 1947 plan to provide aid to Greece and Turkey as part of an effort to prevent them from becoming communist, but in 1949 McCarran broke with Truman after he rejected McCarran's request for increased economic aid to Spain and military aid to Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist Chinese government. In 1949, McCarran visited Spain, where he was treated like a visiting head of state, and he made it clear his admiration for El Caudillo ("the leader") as Franco had styled himself in imitation of Mussolini and Hitler. McCarran's praise for Franco, who had leaned in a pro-Axis neutrality for much of World War II, greatly annoyed Truman who told the press that: "I don't like Franco and I never will". During his visit to Spain, McCarran met with Franco to discuss U.S aid for his regime, which infuriated Truman who noted that the constitution gave the executive the right to conduct foreign policy, which led him to angrily declare that the senator from Nevada did not have the right to conduct his own foreign policy.
After World War II, McCarran continued his anti-Communist efforts. He was a supporter of Chiang Kai-shek, whose "loss of China" to communists in 1949 he blamed on Soviet influence in the State Department. In 1952, McCarran attended a dinner hosted by the Kuomintang Chinese Ambassador to Washington together with Republican Senators Joseph McCarthy and William Knowland; the event began with the toast "Back to the mainland!" McCarthy sought McCarran's favor after he started his "crusade against Communism", giving "hot tips". McCarran told his friends that "Joe is a bit irresponsible" and a "publicity hound", but praised him for his attacks on the Truman administration. In 1951, in an interview with the U.S. News, McCarran replied to the questions asked that he believed that the American Communist Party had been engaging in the "infiltration" of the media, churches, university faculties, unions and "nationality groups".
In August-September 1950, McCarran was the chief sponsor of the McCarran Internal Security Act. This legislation required the Communist Party USA and affiliated organizations to register with the Attorney General and established the Subversive Activities Control Board to investigate possible communist subversion and communist front organizations. The act also gave the government the power to imprison without trial of people "likely" to be spies, saboteurs, and "subversives" if the president declared a national emergency, through those imprisoned could appeal to a review board. President Harry S. Truman vetoed the act, charging that it violated civil liberties and put the government in "the business of thought control". In the "hot summer" of 1950, with the Korean War raging abroad and the Second Red Scare at home, few in Congress wanted to be appear "soft" on communism, and Congress overrode Truman's veto, with the House voting 248 to 48 and the Senate 57 to 10, forcing Truman to reluctantly enforce a law he felt violated the Bill of Rights. After passage of the act, the Federal Bureau of Prisons built six concentration camps (either old POW camps from World War II or abandoned military bases) to hold "subversives" if a national emergency was declared. No such emergency was ever declared and the camps were never used before being shut down in 1957 as a cost-cutting measure. Due to numerous hearings, delays and appeals, the act was never enforced, and its major provisions were declared unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 1965 and 1967.
As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, McCarran created and was the first chairman of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee that investigated the Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman administrations to expose supposed communist spies and sympathizers. In 1951, subcommittee investigators seized the records of the Institute of Pacific Relations in an effort to identify alleged communist infiltration of the organization, which had been formed in 1925 to foster cooperation between Pacific Rim nations. McCarran made much of these records when questioning a Sinologist, Owen Lattimore, in acrimonious hearings over 12 days in February 1951. In March 1950, Senator McCarthy accused Lattimore of being the "top Russian agent" responsible for the "loss of China", thereby making Lattimore, a previously little known expert on China, into an internationally famous figure. During the hearings, it became quickly apparent that McCarran and Lattimore deeply disliked each other with the two men frequently engaging in shouting matches and interrupting one another. When it was established that Lattimore had met President Truman in 1945 to discuss America's China policy, McCarran sarcastically commented: "He visited the President once and forgot it". McCarran demanded that Lattimore prove a negative, asking him "can you say that the IPR and you had no influence on upon the Far Eastern experts in the State Department?" McCarran worked to establish that Lattimore was the man responsible for the "loss of China", claiming General George Marshall's policy during his 1945 to 1947 diplomatic mission to China during that country's civil war between nationalists and communists as being "substantially the same" as that recommended by Lattimore. At the end of the hearings, McCarran gave Lattimore what was described as a "tongue lashing", stating he was "so flagrantly defiant" and "so persistent in his efforts to confuse and obscure the facts that the committee feels constrained to take due notice of his conduct...That he has uttered untruths stands clear in the record". The report of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee written by McCarran concluded that China was indeed "lost" because of the policy followed by the State Department, declaring: "Owen Lattimore and John Carter Vincent were influential in bringing about a change in United States policy...favorable to the Chinese Communists". Through McCarran was careful not to call Lattimore a Soviet spy in his report, which would have allowed him to sue for libel, he came very close with the statement: "Owen Lattimore was, from some time beginning in the 1930s, a conscious, articulate instrument of the Soviet conspiracy".
McCarran subsequently pushed successfully for Lattimore to be indicted for perjury. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he held up the nomination of Truman's nominee for Attorney General, James McGranery, until McGanery promised to indict Lattimore. Lattimore's lawyer Abe Fortas defended him by claiming McCarran had deliberately asked questions about arcane and obscure matters that took place in the 1930s in the hope that Lattimore would not be able to recall them properly, thereby giving grounds for perjury indictments. Federal Judge Luther Youngdahl later dismissed all seven charges against Lattimore on the grounds that the matters in question were insubstantial, of little concern to McCarran's inquiry, or the result of questions phrased in such a way that they could not be fairly answered.
On 27 July 1953, the armistice of Panmunjom was signed ending the Korean War. McCarran attracted national attention when he criticized President Dwight Eisenhower on the Senate floor for signing the armistice, which he called "a perpetuation of a fraud on this country and the United Nations". McCarran believed that the United States and the rest of its allies fighting under the united Nations banner in Korea should have fought on until all of Korea was unified under the leadership of President Syngman Rhee, which led him to see the armistice as a sort of American defeat.
In June 1952, McCarran joined Francis Walter in sponsorship of the McCarran–Walter Act, a law that abolished racial restrictions found in United States immigration and naturalization statutes going back to the Naturalization Act of 1790 and also imposed more rigid restrictions on quotas for immigrants entering the United States. It also stiffened the existing law relating to the admission, exclusion and deportation of dangerous aliens (as defined by the McCarran Internal Security Act). In response to the act he made a well known statement:
I believe that this nation is the last hope of Western civilization and if this oasis of the world shall be overrun, perverted, contaminated or destroyed, then the last flickering light of humanity will be extinguished. I take no issue with those who would praise the contributions which have been made to our society by people of many races, of varied creeds and colors. America is indeed a joining together of many streams which go to form a mighty river which we call the American way. However, we have in the United States today hard-core, indigestible blocs which have not become integrated into the American way of life, but which, on the contrary are its deadly enemies. Today, as never before, untold millions are storming our gates for admission and those gates are cracking under the strain. The solution of the problems of Europe and Asia will not come through a transplanting of those problems en masse to the United States.... I do not intend to become prophetic, but if the enemies of this legislation succeed in riddling it to pieces, or in amending it beyond recognition, they will have contributed more to promote this nation's downfall than any other group since we achieved our independence as a nation.
Some of the immigration provisions of the act were later superseded by the 1965 Immigration Act, but the power of the government to deny visas for ideological reasons remained on the books another 25 years after that.
McCarran died in Hawthorne, Nevada on September 28, 1954, shortly after leaving the stage following a speech he gave at a political rally. According to news accounts published after his death, McCarran suffered a fatal heart attack, after having recovered from attacks in 1951 and 1953.
In 1903, McCarran married Harriet Martha "Birdie" Weeks (1882-1963). They were the parents of four daughters and one son. Samuel McCarran became a doctor and worked in Reno. Margaret and Mary became members of the Order of Dominican Sisters. Norine was a longtime employee of the Library of Congress. Patricia became the wife of Edwin Parry Hay of Maryland.
McCarran is remembered as one of the few Democrats to oppose President Franklin D. Roosevelt and reject the New Deal. In addition, he was a proponent of the aviation industry; he was a sponsor of the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 and the Federal Airport Act of 1945, and was a proponent of establishing the United States Army Air Forces as the United States Air Force separate from the Army. He was also an ardent anti-Communist.
Harold L. Ickes described McCarran as "easy-going, old-shoe 'Pat'" in a column criticizing McCarran as a tool of the oil companies, for not supporting certain regulations Ickes favored. American journalist John Gunther was also critical of McCarran's alleged corporate ties, writing that he resembled gold "in that he is soft, heavy, and not a good conductor."
McCarran International Airport located in Las Vegas, Nevada is named after Senator McCarran. McCarran Boulevard in Reno is named for Pat McCarran, as is McCarran Street in North Las Vegas.
A statue of McCarran is included in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the United States Capitol. Each state is allowed to display likenesses of two individuals; Nevada's are those of McCarran and Sarah Winnemucca.
In 2017, Nevada's three Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to Governor Brian Sandoval and state legislative leaders and stated their view that review of McCarran's career might warrant removal of his statue from the National Statuary Hall Collection.
While he fought for workers' rights and helped shape the country's aviation industry, McCarran left a legacy of racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism, said the letter sent Tuesday by Reps. Dina Titus, Ruben Kihuen and Jacky Rosen.
On January 11, 2017, it was reported that a poll of Nevada legislators indicated support for removing McCarran's statue from the collection. A bill introduced in the Nevada State Senate, SB 174, which called for the removal of the statue and renaming of McCarran International Airport for former U.S. Senator Harry Reid, failed to be passed before the end of the 2017 legislative session on June 1, 2017.
| U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Nevada
Served alongside: Key Pittman, Berkeley L. Bunker,
James G. Scrugham, Edward P. Carville, George W. Malone
Ernest S. Brown
William H. King
| Chairman of the Senate District of Columbia Committee
Theodore G. Bilbo
Frederick Van Nuys
| Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
| Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee