Thanks to MissPreser John C for passing along this link to an article in the New York Times this week, “Last Chapter for a Court with a Place in History.” The Meridian Star has recently announced that the federal courthouse in Meridian, located in the same building as the post office, will be closing. The Times-Picayune has also taken notice. It’s interesting and appropriate that the Times decided to pick up the story since New York is tied to that courthouse through the 1967 trial for the murders of two New Yorkers, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. This trial, covered nationally and maybe even internationally, didn’t necessarily see justice done, but as the article notes, it was the first time that white Mississippians had delivered a guilty verdict to other whites for violence against civil rights workers. As family members commented, if the killing had just included local African American James Chaney, it is quite probable that nothing would have been done to bring anyone to justice.
Here’s how the New York Times article starts out, and I hope you’ll read the whole piece.
Even on a steamy humdrum Thursday afternoon, this city’s stately federal courtroom looks like the kind of place where momentous things could happen, as they once did. The legal campaign to integrate the University of Mississippi got under way here in May 1961, and it was here that a local posse of Klansmen who murdered three civil rights workers faced justice at the hands of their neighbors, the first time that had happened in Mississippi.
The court has remained in use over the decades since, though with a lower profile. Soon, however, it will be shut down for good, a victim of its quietness and the fiscal urgencies of Washington.
Read the rest of the article at the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/us/mississippi-courthouse-with-rich-civil-rights-past-set-to-close.html?_r=2
The courthouse, built in 1932-33 in an Art Deco or Stripped Classic style, was designed by Meridian architect P.J. Krouse, who designed numerous buildings including the Meridian City Hall in his long and productive career. You may remember Krouse from the very informative series on his life and his Pearl River buildings that Mark Davis wrote here on MissPres last year. Frank Fort, a young architect still in Meridian at that time before he moved to Jackson, also worked on this project. The courthouse was listed on the National Register of HIstoric Places in May 1984, and you can read the nomination here.
As the article above notes, the building itself will still function as a post office, but the courtroom space will be vacant unless the county or some other group comes up with a use for it.