McCarran International Airport is Getting a New Name (and Billy Walters has Played a Huge Role)

Every day, thousands of people make their way through the McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Although it’s a location that’s been around for a long time, this doesn’t mean that exciting developments aren’t underway. In fact, it’s recently been determined that the airport will soon be renamed after Nevada’s longest-standing senator: Harry Reid.

Of course, this renaming couldn’t be accomplished without some help from supporters. One of those key individuals is Billy Walters, Las Vegas’s own philanthropist and former professional gambler. Walters isn’t alone in the belief that it’s time for a rebranding, however. This is actually a change that’s gained increasing support over the past few years.

Why do many believe that renaming the McCarran International Airport is a positive move, even after so many years? As it stands, the McCarran International Airport is named as a tribute to Pat McCarran, who is a former Democratic senator of Nevada.

Notably, McCarran is responsible for passing several important aviation-related bills. Despite his contributions to forwarding aviation, he held several xenophobic and anti-Semitic viewpoints. Many have supported the notion that the McCarran International Airport should be renamed, ideally after an individual who better represents the people of Las Vegas. As the years have gone on, Nevada leaders have only become more vocal about the need to rebrand the airport. So, that’s exactly what seems to be happening now.

About Billy Walters and His Contribution to the Airport Rebrand

Billy Walters is someone who has recently made a strong impact on the process of the airport’s renaming. More specifically, Walters (along with his wife, Susan) has donated a whopping one million dollars to help fund the renaming process. Even still, this isn’t all the money that will be necessary for the McCarran International Airport to receive a brand-new name; it’s anything but an inexpensive process, that’s for sure.

That said, Walters is one of the top examples of a classic American success story. It’s fair to say that he wasn’t born with the cards stacked in his favor — and that’s a bit of an understatement.

Walters was born and raised in poverty, with his grandmother as his primary caretaker. Growing up, Walters didn’t even live in a home with indoor plumbing or running water. His father had passed away while he was just an infant, and due to her alcoholism, his mother was unable to care for him.

After the death of his grandmother at the age of thirteen, Walters’ childhood only grew more complicated, but he never lost his motivation, or his desire to work hard and succeed in his many goals. Walters had been forced to move in with his mother and her new husband, where he suffered verbal abuse and neglect.

However, rather than allow his difficult upbringing to kill his spirit, Walters only became more motivated to help other individuals in need. Walters has dedicated much of his adulthood to philanthropy, to better the lives of those in situations similar to his own when he was younger.

Who Is Harry Reid?

It’s really no surprise that Walters would go on to befriend Harry Reid. Reid is a recently retired Nevada senator, who had spent an incredible thirty years in office, the most of any senator within the state.

Like Walters, Reid is an individual who’s devoted much of his time to charity work. Both Walters and Reid are avid supporters of Opportunity Village. This nonprofit is especially close to Walters’ own heart, due to the direct connection it has to his own life and family.

The primary objective of Opportunity Village is to provide vocational training, employment, and other opportunities to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Walters’ own son is affected by these exact difficulties, due to a surgery he underwent at the age of seven. The surgery was intended to treat a brain tumor, although it left him with lasting brain damage.

According to Walters, “[Reid] has been a warrior for the people of Nevada, especially working people and people in need.” He also went on to express his belief that Reid is “a man of integrity,” who Walters is “glad to call … a personal friend.”

Renaming the McCarran International Airport: It’s a Process

Fortunately, the Clark County Commission voted (unanimously) to rename the airport after Harry Reid. This is an exciting development, although it is far from the end of the process.

Although Billy Walters’ one-million-dollar donation certainly made more than a small dent in the costs, quite a bit more is needed to finalize the rebranding process. In fact, currently, it’s projected that seven million dollars are needed to make the renaming happen. All these funds will be through private donations, as per the Clark County Commission’s agreement.

Nonetheless, Billy Walters plans to follow the process, every step of the way. 

About Deny Smith

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