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Lawmakers seek to remove Nevada senator’s plaque over racist views

Updated February 25, 2021 - 11:43 am

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers from the District of Columbia and Maryland again filed a bill Wednesday to remove a plaque honoring a former Nevada senator who voiced ardent white supremacist views.

U.S. Sen. Francis Newlands, a Democrat, who served in the House and Senate from 1883 to 1917, was a champion of conservation and helped establish the Bureau of Reclamation, according to the Reno Historical Society.

But Newlands also wanted to abolish voting rights for Blacks, who he deemed to be an inferior race, and voted against the Supreme Court nomination of Louis Brandeis, the first man of Jewish ancestry to be nominated to the high court.

He died in his Capitol Hill office in 1917 from a heart attack. He was 69, according to an obituary in The New York Times.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., refiled a bill that was introduced last year to remove the plaque from a water fountain at a park in Chevy Chase Circle, which marks the D.C.-Maryland border. Newlands resided in the neighborhood.

“He does not deserve to have his name recognized in our city,” Norton told the Review-Journal in an interview last year.

“Newlands belongs in the dustbins of history, not preserved on a traffic circle that symbolizes the unity between the nation’s capital and the state of Maryland,” Norton said.

“Newlands worked to institutionalize his beliefs in white supremacy and did what he could to increase the racism that continues to plague our country and our people,” Raskin said Wednesday.

The effort to remove Newlands’ plaque is supported by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev.

Titus also has called for the removal of a statue of former Nevada Sen. Pat McCarran from National Statuary Hall in the Capitol over anti-Semitic and racist speech and actions. He served in the Senate from 1933 to 1954.

The Clark County Commission took the first step last week to strip the McCarran name from the Las Vegas airport and rechristen it for former Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Born in Mississippi, Newlands grew up in California and married the daughter of Comstock mining and banking magnate William Sharon. When Newlands’ wife died during childbirth, he became executor of her estate and moved to Nevada, according to the Reno Historical Society.

He later served on a national silver commission which led to his election to the U.S. House. While in Washington, Newlands, a land developer, helped found Chevy Chase Circle, an affluent community in Northwest Washington and Maryland that continues to thrive today.

Newlands’ time in Washington was also marked by his argument that voting rights won by Blacks after the Civil War should be repealed, and he sought to deprive ethnic and racial minorities basic civil rights they deserved, Raskin said.

“Let’s leave Newlands’ disturbing legacy to his family and others who want to continue to honor him. But the people of Maryland and Washington can move on,” Raskin said. “We should stop rewarding racist ideology and politics with a public memorial on public property.”

Contact Gary Martin at gmartin@reviewjournal.com. Follow @garymartindc on Twitter.

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