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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.

Pat McCarran
Nevada Senator. Washington, D.C., April 24. A new informal picture of Senator Pat McCarran, democrat of Nevada LCCN2016875505 (cropped).jpg
United States Senator
from Nevada
In office
March 4, 1933 – September 28, 1954
Preceded byTasker Oddie
Succeeded byErnest S. Brown
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nevada
In office
January 2, 1917 – January 4, 1919
Preceded byFrank Herbert Norcross
Succeeded byBenjamin Wilson Coleman
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Nevada
In office
January 2, 1913 – January 1, 1917
Preceded byJames G. Sweeney
Succeeded byEdward Augustus Ducker
Member of the Nevada Assembly
In office
Personal details
Patrick Anthony McCarran

(1876-08-08)August 8, 1876
Reno, Nevada, U.S.
DiedSeptember 28, 1954(1954-09-28) (aged 78)
Hawthorne, Nevada, U.S.
Resting placeMountain View Cemetery, Reno, Nevada
Political partyDemocratic

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 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.


Early life and educationEdit

McCarran was born in Reno, Nevada, the child of Irish immigrants Margaret Shay and Patrick McCarran.[1] He was educated in Reno and in 1897, he graduated as valedictorian of his class at Reno High School.[2]

He attended the University of Nevada, Reno, but withdrew to work on the family sheep ranch when his father suffered an injury.[2] He studied law with William Woodburn, and served in the Nevada Assembly from 1903 to 1905.[2] In 1904 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Nevada State Senate.[2] He was admitted to the bar in 1905, and in 1906 he was elected district attorney of Nye County.[2] He served one term, 1907–1909, after which he moved to Reno to continue practicing law.[2]

Some sources incorrectly state that McCarran received a bachelor's degree in 1901 and a master's degree in 1915.[3] 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.[4] He also received an honorary LL.D. from Georgetown University in 1943,[5] and an honorary LL.D. from the University of Nevada in 1945.[6]

Judicial careerEdit

In 1912, McCarran was elected to the Supreme Court of Nevada, succeeding John G. Sweeney.[7] He served as an Associate Justice from January 1913 to January 1917.[8]

In January 1917, he succeeded Frank Herbert Norcross as Chief Justice.[9] He was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1918,[8] and served until January 1919, when he was succeeded on the court by Edward Augustus Ducker, and as Chief Justice by Benjamin Wilson Coleman.[8]

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.[10] In addition, he served as chairman of the Nevada State University Board of Visitors.[11]

From 1913 to 1919 he served on the state Board of Pardons.[12] 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.[12]

McCarran was president of the Nevada Bar Association from 1920 to 1921, and was a vice president of the American Bar Association from 1922 to 1923.[13]

United States SenateEdit

Election historyEdit

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.[14] McCarran endorsed Pittman in the general election, and Pittman was reelected.[8]

In 1926, McCarran was again a candidate for the U.S. Senate. He lost the Democratic nomination to Raymond T. Baker, who was defeated by Republican incumbent Tasker Oddie in the general election.[8]

In 1932, McCarran was the Democratic nominee, and he defeated Oddie in the general election.[8] He was reelected in 1938, 1944, and 1950, and served from March 4, 1933 until his death.[15]

Leadership positionsEdit

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).[16]

Aviation advocateEdit

McCarran sponsored numerous laws concerning the early commercial aviation industry, including the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, the Federal Airport Act of 1945.[15] 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.[17]

Other initiativesEdit

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.[18]

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.[19]


McCarran established himself as one of the Senate's most ardent and influential anti-Communists, and was willing to make every effort to contain communism's spread and influence.[20] A qualified admirer of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, he was nicknamed the "Senator from Madrid" by columnist Drew Pearson over McCarran's efforts to increase foreign aid to Spain.[21][22]

After World War II, McCarran continued his anti-Communist efforts. He was a supporter of China's Chiang Kai-shek, whose loss of mainland China to communists in 1949 McCarran blamed on Soviet influence in the State Department.[23] In 1952, McCarran attended a dinner hosted by the Kuomintang Chinese Ambassador to Washington together with Senators Joseph McCarthy and William Knowland that began with the toast "Back to the mainland!"[24]

As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he 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 communist spies and sympathizers.[25] In 1951, investigators from the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee seized the records of the Institute of Pacific Relations in an effort to identify the communist infiltration of the organization, which had been formed in 1925 to foster cooperation between Pacific Rim nations.[26]

McCarran made much of these records when questioning a Sinologist, Owen Lattimore, for 12 days in acrimonious testimony in February 1951. McCarran subsequently pushed successfully for Lattimore to be indicted for perjury. Lattimore's lawyer Abe Fortas tried to defend 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 on the grounds that the matters in question were insubstantial, of little concern to the subject of the inquiry, or the result of a question phrased in such a way that it could not be fairly answered.[27]

In September 1950, he was the chief sponsor of the McCarran Internal Security Act. This legislation required registration with the Attorney General of the Communist Party USA and affiliated organizations and established the Subversive Activities Control Board to investigate possible Communist-action and Communist-front organizations so they could be required to register. Due to numerous hearings, delays and appeals, the act was never enforced, even with regard to the Communist Party USA itself, and the major provisions of the act were found to be unconstitutional in 1965 and 1967.[28]

Changes to immigration lawEdit

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.[29]

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.[30]

McCarran remained in the Senate until his death.

Death and burialEdit

McCarran died in Hawthorne, Nevada on September 28, 1954, shortly after leaving the stage following a speech he gave at a political rally.[15][31] According to news accounts published after his death, McCarran suffered a fatal heart attack, after having recovered from attacks in 1951 and 1953.[31]


In 1903, McCarran married Harriet Martha "Birdie" Weeks (1882-1963).[31][32] They were the parents of four daughters and one son.[31] Samuel McCarran became a doctor and worked in Reno.[31][32] Margaret and Mary became members of the Order of Dominican Sisters.[31][32] Norine was a longtime employee of the Library of Congress.[31][32] Patricia became the wife of Edwin Parry Hay of Maryland.[31][32]


McCarran is remembered as one of the few Democrats to oppose President Franklin D. Roosevelt and reject the New Deal.[33] 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.[34] He was also an ardent anti-Communist.[35]

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.[36] 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."[37]

Statue in the National Statuary Hall Collection

A statue of McCarran is included in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the United States Capitol.[17] Each state is allowed to display likenesses of two individuals; Nevada's are those of McCarran and Sarah Winnemucca.[17]

Possible statue removalEdit

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.[38]

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.[39][40]

On January 11, 2017, it was reported that a poll of Nevada legislators indicated support for removing McCarran's statue from the collection.[39] 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.[41]

Popular cultureEdit

Postcard depicting McCarran at the dedication ceremony for the original McCarran Field, now Nellis Air Force Base

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Browne, Blaine Terry; Cottrell, Robert C. (2010). Lives and Times - Individuals and Issues in American History Since 1865. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 173. ISBN 978-0-7425-6193-9.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Edwards, Jerome E. (1982). Pat McCarran, Political Boss of Nevada. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press. pp. 3–4, 7. ISBN 978-0-87417-071-9.
  3. ^ Rocha, Guy (May 2001). Myth #64: Getting the Facts Down Pat. Carson City: Nevada State Library and Archives. p. 1.
  4. ^ University of Nevada (November 1, 1922). Quarterly Bulletin. Reno, NV: University of Nevada. p. 33.
  5. ^ "Georgetown U. to Confer Degree on Senator M'Carran". The Guardian (Little Rock). September 10, 1943. p. 5.
  6. ^ University of Nevada Board of Regents (1946). Biennial Report of the Board of Regents of the State University of Nevada. Reno: University of Nevada. p. 21.
  7. ^ Davis, Sam Post (1913). The History of Nevada. 1. Reno, NV: Elms Publishing Co. p. 306.
  8. ^ a b c d e f "M'Carran Is New Chief Justice". Reno Gazette-Journal. Reno, NV. January 2, 1917. p. 3.
  9. ^ "Judge McCarran Chosen Chief Justice of Court". The Pioche Record. Pioche, NV. January 12, 1917. p. 1 – via
  10. ^ United States Code Congressional and Administrative News. Eagan, Minnesota: West Publishing Company. 1955. p. 42.
  11. ^ Farnsworth, Joe (1917). List of Members, Officers and Committees and Rules of the Two Houses of the Nevada Legislature. Carson City, NV: State Printing Company. p. 8.
  12. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Nevada. Santa Barbara, CA: Somerset Publishers, Inc. 2000. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-403-09611-4.
  13. ^ McCarran, Pat (May 1, 1939). "My Views on Senate Bill 1635". Popular Aviation. Chicago, Illinois: Ziff-Davis Publishing Company: 36.
  14. ^ Rothman, Hal (2010). The Making of Modern Nevada. Reno, NV: University of Nevada Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-87417-826-5.
  15. ^ a b c Patrick Anthony McCarran, Late a Senator from Nevada. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office. 1955. p. 5.
  16. ^ Historian of the United States Senate. "Patrick Anthony McCarran profile". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Washington, D.C.: United States Senate. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  17. ^ a b c d The First 100 Persons Who Shaped Southern Nevada,; accessed December 12, 2016.
  18. ^ "What is the McCarran-Ferguson Act?". Company Overview: McCarran-Ferguson Act. Bloomington, IL: State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. Retrieved December 14, 2016.
  19. ^ Grisinger, Joanna L. (2012). The Unwieldy American State: Administrative Politics since the New Deal. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-107-00432-0.
  20. ^ Ceplair, Larry (2011). Anti-communism in Twentieth-century America: A Critical History. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC CLIO. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-4408-0047-4.
  21. ^ Carter, Ralph G.; Scott, James M. (2009). Choosing to Lead: Understanding Congressional Foreign Policy Entrepreneurs. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. pp. 89–90. ISBN 978-0-8223-4503-9.
  22. ^ Ybarra, Michael J. (2004). Washington Gone Crazy: Senator Pat McCarran and the Great American Communist Hunt. Hanover, NH: Steerforth Press. p. 504. ISBN 978-1-58642-065-9.
  23. ^ Leffler, Melvyn P. (1992). A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration, and the Cold War. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. p. 295.
  24. ^ Gillon, Steven M.; Kunz, Diane B. (1993). America During the Cold War. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. p. 58.
  25. ^ Black, James Eric (2016). Walt Kelly and Pogo: The Art of the Political Swamp. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-7864-7987-0.
  26. ^ Newman, Robert P. (March 2, 1992). Owen Lattimore and the "loss" of China. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. p. 318. ISBN 978-0-520-07388-3.
  27. ^ Haynes & Klehr Early Cold War Spies; p. 47; US Senate, 82nd Congress, 2nd Session, Committee on the Judiciary, Institute of Pacific Relations, Report No. 2050, p. 224
  28. ^ Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press. p. 187. ISBN 0-19-504361-8.
  29. ^ Senator Pat McCarran, Congressional Record, March 2, 1953, p. 1518
  30. ^ Holmes, Steven A. (February 2, 1990). "Legislation Eases Limits on Aliens". New York Times. New York, NY.
  31. ^ a b c d e f g h Sun Staff (September 29, 1954). "McCarran Dies: Senator Collapses After Speaking to Hawthorne Demo". Las Vegas Sun. Las Vegas, NV.
  32. ^ a b c d e McCarran, Margaret Patricia (Fall–Winter 1968). "Patrick Anthony McCarran, 1876-1954" (PDF). Nevada Historical Society Quarterly. Reno, NV: Nevada Historical Society. pp. 5–53.CS1 maint: Date format (link)
  33. ^ Pederson, William D. (2006). The FDR Years. Facts on File: New York, NY. p. 177. ISBN 978-0-8160-5368-1.
  34. ^ Nevada Aerospace Hall of Fame. "Biography, HOF inductee Patrick A. McCarran". Las Vegas, NV: Clark County Department of Aviation. Retrieved November 18, 2018.
  35. ^ Carter, Ralph G.; Scott, James M. (2009). Choosing to Lead: Understanding Congressional Foreign Policy Entrepreneurs. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-8223-4503-9.
  36. ^ Ickes, Harold (May 15, 1946). "Tidelands Should Not Worry Nevada Senator". The Indianapolis Star. Indianapolis, IN. p. 12 – via
  37. ^ Gunther, John (1947). Inside U.S.A. New York/London: Harper & Brothers. pp. 80, 84, 940.
  38. ^ Whaley, Sean (October 11, 2016). "Nevada lawmakers favor removing McCarran statue from US Capitol". Retrieved January 12, 2017.
  39. ^ a b "Nevada lawmakers favor removing McCarran statue".
  40. ^ Mel Lipman. "McCarran's name dishonors Nevada - Las Vegas Sun News". Retrieved January 12, 2017.
  41. ^ Whaley, Sean (June 6, 2017). "Las Vegas airport will not get a name change – Las Vegas Review-Journal". Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  42. ^ Velotta, Richard N. (June 25, 2012). "Should McCarran airport be renamed for Las Vegas?". Vegas, Inc. Las Vegas, NV.
  43. ^ Smith, John L. (August 28, 2012). "If we're erasing McCarran's name, maybe we should dump some others". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Las Vegas, NV.
  44. ^ Dave in Northridge (November 28, 2012). "Top Comments: Okefenokee Swamp Edition". Daily Kos.
  45. ^ Black, James Eric (2016). Walt Kelly and Pogo: The Art of the Political Swamp. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. p. 199. ISBN 978-0-7864-7987-0.
  46. ^ "G.D. Spradlin, 1920-2011". Boston Globe. July 26, 2011. Retrieved December 23, 2011.
  47. ^ Hoffman, Dave (March 6, 2007). "The Godfather's Connection to the US Attorney Scandal". Concurring Opinions.
  48. ^ A listing of Season 3 episodes with synopses of the History channel reality TV series Pawn Stars
  49. ^ Worth, Chris (April 14, 2011). "Fallout New Vegas Tour: Location 18; Camp McCarran". Fallout: New Vegas Tour. Chris Worth.

References and further readingEdit

  • United States Congress. "Pat McCarran (id: M000308)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  • Edwards, Jerome E. Pat McCarran: Political Boss of Nevada (1982), highly detailed scholarly biography
  • Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504361-8.
  • Klingaman, William (1996). The Encyclopedia of the McCarthy Era. New York : Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-3097-9.
  • Ybarra, Michael J. (2004). Washington Gone Crazy: Senator Pat McCarran and the Great American Communist Hunt. Steerforth Publishing. ISBN 1-58642-065-8.
  • Edwards, Jerome E. (1982). Pat McCarran, Political Boss of Nevada. University of Nevada Press. ISBN 0-87417-071-0.
  • Newman, Robert P. (1992). Owen Lattimore And The "Loss" of China. Berkeley : University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-07388-6.
  • Schrecker, Ellen (1986). No Ivory Tower : McCarthyism and the Universities. New York : Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-503557-7.
  • Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are The Crimes : McCarthyism In America. Boston; London : Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.
  • Hopkins, A. D. (1999). "Pat McCarran, Perennial Politician". The First 100; Portraits of the Men and Women Who Shaped Las Vegas. Stephens Media Group.
  • "Patrick McCarran (1876–1954)". Las Vegas: An Unconventional History. American Experience, PBS. 2005.

By Pat McCarranEdit

  • McCarran, Pat (1950). Three years of the Federal Administrative Procedure Act: A study in Legislation. Georgetown Law Journal Association.
  • McCarran, Pat. Build the West to Build the Nation; Address Before Guests And Members of the Board of Trustees of Builders of the West, Inc.
  • McCarran, Pat. Displaced Persons: Facts Versus Fiction. U.S. Government Printing Office.

External linksEdit

U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Tasker Oddie
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Nevada
Served alongside: Key Pittman, Berkeley L. Bunker,
James G. Scrugham, Edward P. Carville, George W. Malone
Succeeded by
Ernest S. Brown
Political offices
Preceded by
William H. King
Chairman of the Senate District of Columbia Committee
Succeeded by
Theodore G. Bilbo
Preceded by
Frederick Van Nuys
Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Succeeded by
Alexander Wiley
Preceded by
Alexander Wiley
Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee
Succeeded by
William Langer
North Dakota