Pat McCarran

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The Honorable
Pat McCarran
File:Pat McCarran (Nevada) (1947).jpg
United States Senator
from Nevada
In office
March 4, 1933 – September 28, 1954
Preceded by Tasker Oddie
Succeeded by Ernest S. Brown
Personal details
Born Patrick Anthony McCarran
(1876-08-08)August 8, 1876
Reno, Nevada
Died September 28, 1954(1954-09-28) (aged 78)
Hawthorne, Nevada
Political party Democratic
Profession Attorney
Religion Roman Catholic

Patrick Anthony "Pat" McCarran (August 8, 1876 – September 28, 1954) was a Democratic United States Senator from Nevada from 1933 until 1954, and was noted for his strong anticommunism. He is also the namesake of McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

Early life and career

McCarran was born in Reno, Nevada, the child of Irish immigrants. 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, and served in the Nevada House of Representatives in 1903. He was admitted to the bar in 1905, and served as district attorney of Nye County (1907–09).

(Some sources incorrectly state that McCarran received a bachelor's degree in 1901 and a master's degree in 1915.[1] In fact, he did not receive a bachelor's degree. He received an honorary master's degree in 1915[2] and an honorary LL.D. in 1945, both from the University of Nevada.[3] In addition, he received an honorary LL.D. from Georgetown University in 1943.[4])

McCarran was also Nevada Chief Justice (1917–1918), chairman of the Nevada State Board of Parole Commissioners (1913–1918) and chairman of the Nevada State Board of Bar Examiners (1919–1932). A member of the Democratic Party, McCarran ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1916 and 1926. In 1932, he ran a third time, securing the Democratic nomination and defeating Republican incumbent Tasker Oddie, becoming Nevada's first native-born U.S. senator. During the 1930s, McCarran became well known as one of the few congressional Democrats who totally rejected the New Deal.


He sponsored laws concerned with the nation's security, including the Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938, the Federal Airport Act of 1945 and the Administrative Procedures Act of 1946. He was also an early advocate of a separate air force, sponsoring legislation in Congress to that effect as early as 1933.[5] He was co-sponsor of the McCarran-Ferguson Act in 1945, a law that exempted the insurance industry from most federal regulation including antitrust regulation.

An admirer of Francisco Franco in Spain, McCarran was nicknamed the "Senator from Madrid" by the columnist Drew Pearson because of his efforts to increase foreign aid to Spain. McCarran's other favorite foreign leader was Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek of China, whose loss of mainland China in 1949 was blamed by McCarran on alleged Soviet spies in the State Department. 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 this toast: "Back to the mainland!"

After World War II, McCarran established himself as one of the Senate's most powerful anti-Communists. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, McCarran created and was the first chairman of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee that investigated the administrations headed by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. In 1951, investigators from the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee seized the records of the Institute of Pacific Relations.

McCarran made much of these records when questioning a Sinologist, Owen Lattimore, for 12 days in acrimonious testimony in February 1951. McCarran subsequently pushed very strongly for Lattimore to be indicted for alleged acts of perjury during his testimony. Lattimore's lawyer Abe Fortas accused McCarran of deliberately asking 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 a perjury indictment because of discrepancies between the records and Lattimore's testimony. Federal Judge Luther Youngdahl later dismissed all seven charges as insubstantial, of little concern to the matter at hand, or the result of a question phrased such that it could not be fairly answered.[6]

File:Mccarran.jpgIn September 1950, he was the chief sponsor of the McCarran Internal Security Act. This legislation required registration with the Attorney General of the American Communist Party 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 United States Communist Party itself, and the major provisions of the act were found to be unconstitutional in 1965 and 1967.[7]

In June 1952, McCarran joined Francis Walter in instigating the passing of the McCarran–Walter Act, a bill that imposed more rigid restrictions on entry quotas to 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:

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.

Pat McCarran remained in the Senate until his death in Hawthorne, Nevada in 1954. In 1960, the state of Nevada donated a bronze statue of McCarran to the National Statuary Hall Collection at the United States Capitol.

Popular culture

File:U.S. Senator Pat McCarran handing mail bag to Pony Express rider, Dedication Ceremony, McCarran Air Field, Las Vegas, Nevada (74665).jpg

  • McCarran Boulevard is a major roadway in Reno, Nevada, also named after the senator.
  • Cartoonist Walt Kelly introduced a character into his Pogo comic strip called Mole MacCaroney. Mole's near-blindness and concerns about "germs" were seen as an attack on McCarran and his immigration-restriction policies.
  • The senator was allegedly the inspiration for the fictional character of corrupt United States Senator Patrick Geary (also from Nevada), in the film The Godfather Part II.[10]
  • McCarran's chair from his tenure in the U.S. Senate was featured on an episode of the History channel reality television series Pawn Stars.[11]


  1. Rocha, Guy (May 2001). Myth #64: Getting the Facts Down Pat. Carson City: Nevada State Library and Archives. p. 1. 
  2. University of Nevada (November 1, 1922). Quarterly Bulletin. Reno: University of Nevada. p. 33. 
  3. 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. 
  4. "Georgetown U. to Confer Degree on Senator M'Carran". The Guardian (Little Rock). September 10, 1943. p. 5. 
  5. The First 100 Persons Who Shaped Southern Nevada
  6. 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
  7. Fried, Richard M. (1990). Nightmare in Red: The McCarthy Era in Perspective. Oxford University Press. p. 187. ISBN 0-19-504361-8. 
  8. Senator Pat McCarran, Congressional Record, March 2, 1953, p. 1518
  9. The First 100 Persons Who Shaped Southern Nevada
  10. "G. D. Spradlin, 1920-2011". Boston Globe. 26 July 2011. Retrieved 23 December 2011. 
  11. A listing of Season 3 episodes with synopses of the History channel reality TV series Pawn Stars

References and further reading

  • Pat McCarran at the 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 McCarran

  • 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. 
United States 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