The Russell Senate Office Building

I happened to be on Peter Boyles’s radio show today and he mentioned that Senator Michael Bennet wants to rename the Russell Senate Office Building. I got the impression Boyles doesn’t think much of the move; I made a noncommittal remark because I didn’t know about the story.

Bennet called for the renaming of the building on June 12. The building was named after Democratic Georgia Senator Richard Russell Jr., who served in the Senate from 1933 through 1971. There is no doubt that Russell was an open segregationists and a coauthor of the 1956 Southern Manifesto.

Originally called simply the Senate Office Building (SOB), the building opened in 1909. The building was not named for Russell until 1972, a year after Russell’s death. Senator Robert Byrd, in suggesting the change, said of Russell, “I do not think any man who has ever served in this body contributed more of his intellect, his knowledge, and his extraordinary skills, to enhance the integrity of the Senate, which he so deeply revered.” Another Democratic Senator, Philip Hart, “took the position that the Senate was acting too soon after the two senators’ deaths [Russell and Everett Dirksen] and should delay acting until ‘history’s estimate’ of them could be recorded.” In retrospect that seems like a prudent take.

Incidentally, long ago I worked as an intern for Senator Hank Brown, who worked out of the Hart Senate Office Building, named, ironically, for Philip Hart.

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