Las Vegas Sun

November 27, 2014

McCARRAN DIES

Senator Collapses After Speaking to Hawthorne Demo

Pat McCarran is dead.

The controversial silver-haired Senator who spent 22 years in Washington as a representative of the State of Nevada succumbed last night to a coronary occlusion shortly after delivering a vigorous speech in support of his fellow Democrats.

The 78-year-old solon appeared at a huge political rally in Hawthorne with Vail Pittman and Walter Baring. He had just finished delivering a talk and was walking down a side aisle in the auditorium when he collapsed.

Navy medical doctors were summoned from the Hawthorne Naval base and physicians from the community worked over him. A fire department respirator unit was used on his lifeless body for half an hour before he was pronounced dead.

Just moments before, he had conversed with his friends in the auditorium. Approximately 40 minutes had elapsed between the time Sen. McCarran finished the last talk at the rally and the time he fell to the floor.

Friends of the Senator at the meeting said last night that he did nothing that would have been considered strenuous enough to have caused a heart attack.

He left Reno at 2:45 p.m. yesterday and stopped off at Fallon. While in Fallon, perhaps his last public act was to "buy another man's chair at the barbershop."

Sen. McCarran wanted to get a haircut. He went into the shop and found it too crowded. He came back a little later and paid a man to give up his place in line so that he could get his hair cut and still get to Hawthorne on time.

McCarran arrived at Hawthorne at 6:03 p.m. and went to the Naval base where he was the dinner guest of Capt. Walter S. Mayer, the commanding officer of the base.

He then joined a parade through the Hawthorne civic center along with Pittman and Baring. Before the speeches began in the civic auditorium, the Senator conversed with his friends for some time.

His speech to the crowded auditorium touched on the international situation in which he advocated a strong national defense for the United States and the need for Democratic candidates to be elected at the Nov. 2 election. He was especially strong in his support of James (Sailor) Ryan, Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor.

He tied the union official in very tightly with Pittman, saying that the party needed both men.

Pittman was quoted as saying "This is a tragic thing."

While the physicians and respirator operators were making a futile effort to revive Sen. McCarran, Father William Condon performed the last Catholic Church rites on him. McCarran was a life-long Catholic.

Father Condon was an assistant priest at St. Andrew's Church in Boulder City for several weeks. A few months ago he was transferred to Hawthorne.

It was the third attack suffered by Sen. McCarran in recent years. He was stricken in 1951 and spent several weeks in St. Mary's Hospital in Reno recovering, and then again last year he was back in the same institution with another attack. He was again hospitalized for several weeks.

McCarran joined the statewide Democratic caravan in Hawthorne. He planned to go back to Reno after the rally, then rejoin the caravan when it was scheduled to reach Las Vegas this weekend.

McCarran was born on a ranch 15 miles west of Reno, Aug. 8, 1876.

He attended grade and high school in Reno and later earned his master of arts degree at the University of Nevada.

He entered political life soon after graduation from the University, but it was his athletic ability from younger days that made it possible for him to continue his schooling toward a law degree.

During summer vacations and during baseball season he played semi-pro baseball for logging camps, boom mining towns and the Reno city team.

He was elected to the state legislature as a Democrat in 1903, and later was chosen to represent the state at an irrigation congress in which many of the regulations now governing western reclamation projects were formulated.

After passing the Nevada state bar, McCarran -then under 30- established private practice in Tonopah. As a Democrat, he ran for the office of district attorney of Nye County and was elected.

After serving two years as Nye County prosecutor, McCarran moved to his former home in Reno in 1909. He returned to political action again in 1912, when he was elected as an associate justice of the state supreme court. He became chief justice in 1917.

McCarran tried twice to win a seat in the U .S. Senate before defeating Sen. Tasker L. Oddie in 1932, after Oddie served 12 years in the upper house.

In 1926, McCarran had made an succussful bid for the Democratic senatorial nomination, but was defeated by Ray Baker, who served as treasurer of the Unite States under President Woodrow Wilson. Baker, in turn, was defeated by Oddie.

In 1938, McCarran subdued Albert Hilliard, who had attacked him as a reactionary. His hardest battle came in 1944, when Vail Pittman, then lieutenant governor, waged an aggressive campaign.

McCarran edged Pittman to the 1944 primaries, chiefly on the vote he received in Clark County, and won the November election over George W. "Molly" Malone, who later became his senatorial colleague.

In the 1930 election, McCarran defeated George Franklin of Las Vegas in the primary election, and George Marshall, Republican, also of Las Vegas, in the general election, for his fourth term in the upper house of congress.

McCarran was perhaps most widely known as chairman of the inprotatn Senate Judiciary committee, and during his stay in Congress also served as chairman of the following committees:

Senate special committee to decentralize industry; Internal security committee; Joint congressional committee on foreign economic cooperation; and the District of Columbia senate committee.

He was author of many congressional acts while in the Senate, among them:

The Civil Aeronautics act of 1934, which set up the CAA and established safety regulations for airline, commercial and private flying.

The Silver Purchase act of 1939 and 1946.

The National Cattle Theft act by 1941, halting cattle rustling by truck.

The Federal Airport Act of 1945, providing for the building of a nationwide airport net.

The Administrative Procedure act of 1946, which established standards by which citizens could present problems to administrative agencies.

The Anti-Communist Internal Security Act of 1951, which was hailed as the first legislative blow against communism.

The immigration and nationality act of 1952, which was a revision of previous immigration laws.

For the past 10 years McCarran has been the central figure of a battle fo rcontrol of Nevada's, Democratic organization. He split with former Democratic Gov. Vail Pittman in 1944, but last week publicly endorsed Pittman's candidacy for governor against incumbent Republican Gov. Charles Russel.

The move came as a surprise to veteran political observers who through the years had seldom seen the senator change a stand. But close friends said that it had been a move to gain control of the state party.

In 1950, the senator had refused to support Pittman for the same office and had urged his own supporters to vote for Russell.

Since Congress adjourned the senator had been living quietly at his residence at a Reno hotel with his wife, Martha, whom he married in 1903. The McCarrans have four daughters and one son, Dr. Samuel McCarran, a Reno physician. Two of the four daughters are members of order of Dominican Sisters. They are Margaret and Mary. The others are Miss Noreen McCarran of Washington, D.C., and Mrs. Edwin Parry Hay of Maryland.

McCarran's public career covered more than 40 years in Nevada.

At his death, Sen. McCarran ranked fourth in the Senate in seniority, outranked only by Sens. George of Georgia, Hayden of Arizona, Russell of Georgia and tied with Byrd of Virginia, all Democrats.

His death was the ninth among the senators in the present session of Congress.

His death leaves the lineup between the parties 48 Republicans, 46 Democrats and 1 Independent.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

History: Table of contents »