FLASHBACK: Who Was Richard Russell, And Why Does Chuck Schumer Want A Fellow Democrat’s Name Removed From A Building?

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Evie Fordham Politics and Health Care Reporter
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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday he wants to rename the Russell Senate Office Building after late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, who died Saturday after battling brain cancer.

“So that future generations will study his example, I’ve proposed that we rename the Russell Senate Office Building, one of only three Senate office buildings, after John McCain,” Schumer wrote on Twitter Monday.

Why does Schumer, a Democrat, want to scrub former Georgia Democratic Sen. Richard Russell Jr.’s name from the building’s title?

Russell fought against civil rights at every turn during his nearly 40 years in the Senate. When the Supreme Court declared that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional in 1954, Russell resisted the ruling by co-writing the “Declaration of Constitutional Principles.”

“We commend the motives of those states which have declared the intention to resist forced integration by any lawful means,” reads the 1956 document, colloquially known as the “Southern Manifesto.”

More than 100 members of Congress signed the manifesto, according to TIME.

Russell used his knowledge of Senate rule loopholes to keep anti-lynching and anti-poll tax statutes off the books, according to TIME.

The senate building was known as the Old Senate Office Building before it was dedicated to Russell in 1972, a year after he died. A statue of Russell has stood in the building since 1995, according to TIME.

McCain’s ties to the building run deep. Besides having his office there, McCain chaired the Senate Armed Services Committee, which often meets in the building. (RELATED: Graham: John Kelly Called McCain’s Family Right After Senator’s Passing)

“We can honor [McCain] by trying to carry on the principles he lived by,” Schumer wrote on Twitter Monday. “We can try, as he did, to put country before party. We can try, as he did, to speak truth to power. [And] we can try, as he summoned us to try, to restore the Senate to its rightful place in our national political life.”

Schumer’s proposal to rename the building is not the first time someone wanted to see Russell’s name exchanged. The idea was floated when the late Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy died in 2009, according to NPR.

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