A little background on Charlotte McCourt

You may have heard of the obituary Tuesday in the Review-Journal in which Charlotte McCourt’s family asks for votes against Harry Reid in lieu of flowers.

I knew Sister McCourt from the time I was baptized and became a member, not only of the Church of Jesus Christ, but also of the Las Vegas 34th Ward. Besides her and her husband Pat, two of her grown children were part of the ward. One of her grandchildren, Lisa Taylor, was with me in the Eldorado class of ’84, and several others were part of the MIA as I was growing up.

R-J columnist John Smith wrote that Charlotte McCourt was not a political player, but he was not accurate. When Lisa left on a mission and spoke in sacrament meeting before departing, Senator Reid was present with us in the congregation. When Pat and Charlotte left on their mission, Nevada’s other Senator, Richard Bryan (D), came to sacrament meeting; also, Bishop Livingston read from the pulpit a letter from Governor Miller (D) congratulating and commending two of his state’s citizens for the service they would render abroad.

Charlotte recruited me one pre-dawn election morning to put get-out-the-vote flyers on windshields for a couple hours. This was done on behalf of Karen Hayes (D), who won a seat on the county commission. Two years later, two more Mormon Democrats would be elected as commissioners, and with Bruce Woodbury (R) already in office, Mormons would be a majorty of the seven-member commission from 1985 until 1995. Again: three Mormon Democrats and one Mormon Republican on the most important government body in southern Nevada.

When you read the obituary request for votes against Harry Reid, you may have thought, “What a zealous Republican!” Sister McCourt was a Democrat, and an actively involved one. Her example was one factor that led me back in ’82 to walk into the Reid campaign headquarters and spend several Saturday mornings canvassing neighborhoods to send him to Congress for his first term. On one hand, when I saw John Smith’s headline “Charlotte zings Reid from beyond the grave,” I was pretty sure I knew which Charlotte this was: she was that involved with politics; also that first name reference gives a sense of how connected she was. On the other hand, this sort of rebuke on her behalf against a Democrat is a surprise.

Update: The R-J has a good follow-up piece.

Related posts:
“Lame Ducks and the Las Vegas Temple”
“On Ammon, Social Class, and Sharing the Gospel”

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About John Mansfield

Mansfield in the desertA third-generation southern Nevadan, I have lived in exile most of my life in such places as Los Alamos, Baltimore, Los Angeles, the western suburbs of Detroit, and currently the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C. I work as a fluid dynamics engineer. I was baptized at age twelve in the font of the Las Vegas Nevada Central Stake Center, and on my nineteenth birthday I received the endowment in the St. George Temple. I served as a missionary mostly in the Patagonia of Argentina from 1985 to 1987. My true calling in the Church seems to be working with Cub Scouts, whom I have served in different capacities in four states most years since 1992. (My oldest boy turned eight in 2004.) I also currently teach Sunday School to the thirteen-year-olds. I hold degrees from two universities named for men who died in the 1870s, the Brigham Young University and the Johns Hopkins University. My wife is Elizabeth Pack Mansfield, who comes from New Mexico's north central mountains and studied molecular biology at the same two schools I attended. We have four sons, whose care and admonition, along with care of my aged father, require much of Elizabeth's time. She currently serves the Church as Mia-Maid advisor, ward music chairman, and choir director, and plays violin whenever she can. One day, I would like to make shoes.

18 thoughts on “A little background on Charlotte McCourt

  1. And you thought Utah religon and politics was messy. Sheesh, I’ve never heard of anything like that before!

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  3. While it is true that Pat and Charlotte were at one time active Democrats, in recent years they became disillusioned an disappointed in the Democratic platform and particularly Harry Reid. At the time of her death, Charlotte and Pat had withdrawn support for the Democratic Party.

  4. I’m certain if we asked for this same thing when my Grandmother passes away, she’d find a way to get herself resurrected so she could come yell at us. If Charlotte McCourt wouldn’t have approved of this, it’s really creepy that her family asked for it.

  5. I guess I should make it clear since I have no idea what McCourts political leaning was recently. What I think is creepy is if her family used her death to make some political point if it wasn’t something she asked for.

  6. Ann McMullin, welcome. Good to hear from someone who has been around the McCourt family more recently than I have.

    Every month or so, something will remind me unpleasantly that I don’t live in Nevada. In Nevada, I enjoyed politics because I saw it as one part of civic involvement. Now, I have no idea who owns the businesses or radio stations or newspapers in my community, who sits on the board of the scout conucil, and I feel too estranged to have a right to participate in politics.

  7. Trust me, this was not a case of Charlotte’s family taking advantage of an opportunity to make a political statement. I happen to know that the obituary comment represented her views and desires exactly.

  8. John, my sister lived in that ward. I knew Charlotte, too. Not very well but I visited so often that I felt at home in that ward. My sister was Dessie Hampton (she died 2 years ago). I read this on Daily Beast (I don’t know if that’s conservative or liberal yet but Dan objected to me reading Drudge so I’m trying other sites) and thought “wow, small world.” Did you know my sister? She was so vibrant and talented but lost herself and her family along the way.

  9. Annegb, I’m sorry to hear that Dessie has died. She lived on Clinton Lane, and I lived on Castleberry Lane, the next parallel street to the west, a 300-yard walk from one trailer to the other. Something that comes to mind is a conversation between Dessie and my mother regarding Grant Bowler. There had been low-grade feuding between Grant Bowler and my grandfather, and for my mother and her siblings it could sometimes be difficult having the high school principal/stake president/small town big shot against you. For example, my uncle was clearly the top student of his class, so that year there was no valedictorian; with the boost of a formal recognition like that, perhaps he could have finished college directly instead of taking a round about route through the Air Force. Dessie said that she knew that there were many like my mother with hard feelings, but the Bowlers had been a great support to her and her sister. It helped mellow my mother’s feelings and see some of the good in the man.

  10. John Mansfield said,

    Now, I have no idea who owns the businesses or radio stations or newspapers in my community, who sits on the board of the scout conucil, and I feel too estranged to have a right to participate in politics.

    Unfortunately that situation is not confined to just Nevada. Nonetheless everyone must have a right to participate in politics or we’re all in big trouble.

    Having never heard of Charlotte McCourt or her family before, I have no comment on this post other than to say I’m sorry for the family’s loss.

  11. Oh, John, that means so much. You can’t know. I loved Dessie more than anybody except my children and what happened to her is one of the great tragedies in my life. We lost her long before she died. She’s buried here in Cedar next to my son. Her kids are all really screwed up and that, too, is a tragedy because they had such a wonderful family. I no longer have any contact with Gail.

    But I remember Charlotte and her efforts to help Dessie when she started to fall apart. I’ve probably met you. I wasn’t the sister Dessie talked about but I did love that ward and its members. Bishop Klingonsmith’s niece was one of my visiting teaching ladies here in Cedar.

    Dessie. What a great loss.

  12. John…thanks for your thoughts about my grandma. She was exactly as you described. We learned so much from her. The climate of the city has changed in a really negative way. Big city influence is abundant in Las Vegas. When my grandma was running campaigns, she knew everyone and had everyone involved. Now, that is a real community organizer. I know that this has caused a stir, but you had to know that woman to understand what was written. She wouldn’t want flowers to memorialize her…she would want people to understand how to change their community. She truly believed that even one vote…no, especially the one vote of a citizen was important. She would have been one of those government teachers that would have impacted the youth of the world. She did many of my friends, who walked for candidates, mailed mailers, made phone calls and learned grass root politics. Those who think that it is morbid to speak for her from the family didn’t know her. It would have been as she wished.

  13. Lisa, there is much more to your grandmother than politics, so I’ve only described one aspect of her. Very nice of you to write here, and I’m glad you found what I wrote fitting. Deaths can bring up a lot of feelings of loss, and I’m feeling a lot of loss this morning, such as hearing about Dessie Hampton, and my loss of Nevada, and Las Vegas’ loss of itself. It hurt a bit to read that the funeral was in Pahrump.

    On a less personal level, there is loss of balance in the Democratic party, and the loss that happens with career politicians. Harry Reid would have been one of those sending flowers to Charlotte McCourt’s funeral, or attending if he could. Is there anyone who is a better man after three decades in Congress? More need the sense of Richard Bryan, Bill Frist, or Jake Garn to serve a couple terms and then go home, a home that isn’t Washington. Robert Bennett should have kept to that plan.

    Six years ago, when Harry Reid was about to become Minority Leader, I wrote, “I am happy for his successes. I worry, though, about the strains of leadership on him as he has to be a Democrat first rather than a Nevadan (or Mormon). His re-election in 1998 was extremely close, a 428 vote margin. He won easily yesterday, but in 2010 if he goes for a fifth term, he could suffer the same fate as Senator Daschle.”

  14. Charlotte McCourt, as I remember, was a remarkable woman, with spirit and heart. She wasn’t cookie cutter Mormon–well, Molly Mormon. My sister talked about her all the time and really respected her. Charlotte was the kind of person you could call to bail you out of jail (not that I know of any personal examples). But there are friends who will get up, drive to the jail, put up their diamond earrings and chew you out all the way home. And then there are friends who will fall apart, talk to their husband and your bishop and decide it would be best to avoid you forever.

    Charlotte was the other kind. Who would risk making others feel uncomfortable by asking her family to write an obituary like that.

  15. John M, I have good feelings for Harry Reid as a man and fellow Latter-day Saint but very negative feelings for him as a politician. I wonder how many of those negative feelings are related to the positions he was forced to take as minority and then majority leader in the Senate. If he had remained a low-key voice for moderation my feeling is that many people like myself and Sis. McCourt would not be as outspoken against him. As one example, I have no problem with Rep. Matheson, who is a truly moderate Democrat in Utah, even though he has cast many, many votes with which I disagree.

  16. I love Harry Reid. However, I view this as some good political fun. We should not be so uptight. Thanks for the personal remembrance, John. Very cool.

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