- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 5, 2003

An activist group wants to alter the legacy of one of the most respected senators of the mid-20th century, saying Sen. Richard B. Russell's views on segregation warrant taking his name off a Senate office building.
The 38-year Senate career of Mr. Russell, Georgia Democrat, led his colleagues to rename the Old Senate Office Building after him in 1972, a year after his death.
The campaign to change the name of the Russell Senate Office Building comes six weeks after Democrats drove Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott from his post as Senate majority leader after Mr. Lott praised the segregationist 1948 presidential campaign of South Carolina's Strom Thurmond.
In the Senate, Mr. Russell was a mentor to Lyndon B. Johnson and shaped U.S. military policy during the Cold War as chairman of the Armed Services and Appropriations committees. Mr. Russell was also a segregationist who, with other Southerners, blocked anti-lynching laws and other civil rights legislation.
Comedian and social activist Dick Gregory and others have formed a group called Change the Name, which wants to erase the words etched in stone on the Russell Senate Office Building.
Once people "realize who this man was and what he represented, I don't think there will be any problem at all in changing that name," Mr. Gregory said at a news conference yesterday.
The group sent letters last month to all 100 senators asking them to pass a resolution to change the building's name, but it has received no response, Mr. Gregory said.
When the Senate changed the name three decades ago on a voice vote, one senator objected, Sen. Philip Hart, Michigan Democrat. Mr. Hart's name now graces another Senate building.
Senate historian Donald Ritchie could not recall any precedence for unnaming a Senate building. He described Mr. Russell as a "senator's senator."
"He was always a gentleman. His word was his bond, and people respected him," Mr. Ritchie said. "That building was named after him despite his record."

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