U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet on Wednesday announced that he supports a name change for the office building in the U.S. Capitol complex named after a segregationist senator.
“No one should have to work in a building named after an individual who spent his career in government defending segregation. But that's the reality for everyone who works in the Russell Senate Office building,” Bennet wrote on Twitter. “It's long past time we #RenameRussell.”
In response to an email from Colorado Politics, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner also favored a name change, throwing his weight behind a prominent figure from Colorado history.
“Colorado’s 29th Governor, Ralph Carr, fought the grave injustice that was committed against Japanese Americans during World War II. I can think of no greater way to honor the legacy of Governor Carr than to rename the Russell building after him,” said Gardner. Carr narrowly lost an election for the U.S. Senate in 1942, and opposed the internment of Japanese Americans.
The Russell Building, constructed between 1903 and 1908, is the oldest of the three buildings in which senators maintain their offices and committee rooms. It gained its current name following the death of U.S. Sen. Richard B. Russell Jr., D-Ga., in 1971.
During his nearly four decades as a senator, Russell, according to The Washington Post, filibustered anti-lynching legislation and opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He co-authored the “Southern Manifesto,” a congressional declaration criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to integrate schools in the case of Brown v. Board of Education.
The ruling, the document argued, “is creating chaos and confusion in the States principally affected. It is destroying the amicable relations between the white and Negro races...It has planted hatred and suspicion where there has been heretofore friendship and understanding.”
After the 2018 death of U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., proposed renaming the Russell Building after the former Republican presidential candidate. In an interview with The Post, Russell’s niece, Sally Russell, said her uncle should be remembered for more than his racism, adding, “the black people who worked for him — they liked him.”
Bennet and Gardner's Washington, D.C. offices are both in the Russell Building.
Support for changing the Russell Building's name comes amid a larger national sentiment to remove from places of prominence the names and likenesses of people who symbolize white supremacy. The U.S. Senate's version of the annual defense policy bill contains a provision to change the names of military bases that honor men who supported the Confederacy. President Donald Trump threatened over Twitter to veto the bill because of the feature, while simultaneously calling its sponsor a racist nickname.
This story has been updated with a statement from Gardner.