WASHINGTON – Legislation has been filed in the House and Senate to remove the name of a segregationist and former U.S. senator from Nevada from a plaque on a fountain in a neighborhood traffic circle that is under management of the National Park Service.
Although he helped develop Chevy Chase, local residents want a reference to U.S. Sen. Francis G. Newlands, D-Nev., who died in 1917, removed from their Maryland and District of Columbia community.
“Francis Newlands – who developed Chevy Chase – was a white supremacist who worked to actively ensure his developments were inaccessible to Black, Jewish and working class families,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who filed a bill in the Senate with U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., to remove the reference.
A bill was refiled in the House by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., urging Congress to send Newlands “to the dustbins” of history.
Norton’s legislation in 2020, supported by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., sought congressional approval for the National Park Service to remove the plaque on the fountain that honors the late lawmaker.
In an August 2020 interview with the Review-Journal, Norton said she was contacted by neighborhood residents who wanted the plaque removed, but needed congressional authority for such an action.
She said their request was justifiable.
Newlands called for repeal of the 15th Amendment which secured the right to vote for African Americans.
The Nevada senator also voted against the Supreme Court nomination of Louis Brandeis, the first man of Jewish ancestry to be named to the high court.
Newlands, who served in Congress from Nevada from 1883 to 1917, died of a heart attack on Dec. 24, 1917 in his Capitol Hill office. He was 69, according to a New York Times obituary.
Born in Mississippi, Newlands grew up in California and married the daughter of Comstock mining and banking magnate William Sharon. When Newlands’ wife died during childbirth, he became executive of her estate and moved to Nevada, according to the Reno Historical Society.
Newlands was later elected and served two terms in the House before election to the Senate.
The House and Senate bills to remove Newlands’ name are backed by the Chevy Chase Village board of managers, which does “not want the fountain’s memorial to be seen as honoring systemic racism and discrimination,” said Elissa Leonard, the board’s chairwoman.