Saturday, May 22, 2010

Reagan vs. Henry Clay

While Reagan lost out to the Devil in the naming battle of Mt. Diablo in California, it turns out he had more success in New Hampshire - success that has now been challenged by the feds. In 2003, the GOP controlled New Hampshire state legislature voted to rename Mt. Clay after Ronald Reagan. There was a certain logic to the decision. Mt. Clay lies in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, between Mts. Washington and Jefferson, but it is named for Henry Clay, who despite three attempts, never rose from the Senate to the White House. The legislature, though, were acting less out of compulsive pedantry than eager support of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project.

However, such name changes require the acquiescence of the federal government, specifically the United States Board on Geographic Names, and this month they voted down the change. They took so long because federal law does not allow decisions on commemorative acts until five years after the death of the person in question (something that has confounded the RRLP and its congressional agents in the past). The minutes of the meeting in question are not available yet, but the decision seems based on a fairly conservative resistance to whimsical name changes of well established landmarks (this also seems to be the general view of mountaineers, if those commenting at View From the Top are representative). So while New Hampshire Republicans will no doubt be making increased references to Mt. Reagan, there is, as yet, officially no mountian in the United States representing the Gipper.

On a side note, the secretary of the United States Board on Geographic Names is called Lou Yost - what an amazing name.

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