Georgia Senator Richard Russell has a building in the Senate complex named after him, but there is a bipartisan effort to rename it after the late Sen. John McCain.

Sen. Russell was a lifelong Democrat and a white supremacist. He used his power in the Senate hold down Americans who happened to be black. He also used his power to advance the career of Lyndon Johnson.

The U.S. Senate named their office building in 1972 after Sen. Russell, who had died in 1971. The Democrats dominated the Senate at the time, and the motion to name the building after him was made by Sen. Robert Byrd, a one-time member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Richard Russell supported white supremacy and he opposed federal laws against lynching black people.

In 1996, the celebration of the segregationist Democrat continued. On Jan. 24, 1996, the Vice President of the United States, Al Gore, unveiled a statue of the late Senator Russell in the building already named in his honor.

Joining the Vice President in the dedication in our nation’s capital was another highly regarded Democrat with a background in racist terrorism. The Ku Klux Klan beat, burned and murdered blacks, Jews and Catholics in an effort to maintain their political power. Among the members of the KKK was Sen. Byrd, and he was there with Gore that day. In his prepared remarks, Gore referred to Sen. Byrd as a “close friend” of his.

According to the historian Robert A. Caro, Sen. Russell wrote: “any southern white man worth a pinch of salt would give his all to maintain white supremacy” (Master of the Senate, page 191). In 1942, Russell received a letter from a constituent who wanted Russell to act in his official capacity as a Senator to block the enlistment of black Americans into the U.S. Marine Corps. His constituent wrote the Marines “have achieved a brilliant record and a great fighting spirit with the aid of the Negro. Don’t let them ruin the morale of the boys by letting the Negro in the Marine Corps."

Most elected officials get bizarre letters and ignore them or refer them to law enforcement for investigation if necessary.

But Democrat Richard Russell went in a different direction with this letter. Senator Russell replied, “I feel just as you do about the enlistment of Negroes in the Marine Corps, and I have vigorously protested any such policy.” (Master of the Senate, pg. 1081)

Vice President Gore’s father served in the Senate with Richard Russell. Gore told the 1996 audience “on one matter my father was resolute whenever he spoke about Senator Russell. Dick Russell had a heart of gold and was one of the most honorable individuals ever to serve in the United States Senate throughout its more than two-hundred-year history.”

At no point did the Vice President condemn the racist actions of Sen. Richard Russell.

Sen. John McCain served with honor in our military and was a prisoner of war and a victim of torture by the Communists in Vietnam. He fought for freedom, while Russell tried to preserve racist fascism in America’s south.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. 

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