Natchez gets OK for federal courthouse

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 17, 1999

For the first time in modern history, Natchez will have a federal courthouse downtown.

But a courthouse won’t just make history, said Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown. It will also bring jobs and economic development to the area.

Congress passed legislation Wednesday that allows the city to receive funding for a federal courthouse facility. Previous legislation allowed federal court to be held in the city, but no money was allocated to pay for a separate facility.

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Federal Judge David Bramlette will use the new courthouse.

&uot;This is a historic day for the city,&uot; said Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown. &uot;This clearly establishes Natchez as a place for federal court. We will begin immediately to find housing for the courthouse.&uot;

That housing, Brown hopes, will be in the city-owned Memorial Hall, which is currently being leased by the Historic Natchez Foundation. In its nearly 150-year history, Memorial Hall has been used as a school auditorium, opera opera house, skating rink, library and Confederate Pageant hall.

Federal court, when it is held in Natchez, is held in the Adams County Courthouse. But space in that building is tight, with both the chancery and circuit courts using space.

Brown said the courthouse will be an economic development tool for Natchez.

In addition to bringing &uot;high-paying jobs,&uot; Brown said, federal court cases bring lawyers, defendants and plaintiffs who need places to stay and places to eat — a boost to the tourism industry. &uot;All of that together has a dramatic impact,&uot; Brown said.

The legislation passed by Congress was sponsored by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and supported by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and Rep. Ronnie Shows, D-Miss.

Wednesday’s legislation does not allocate any money yet, but Brown said Bramlette can ask the federal government for funds to operate the court.

Funding for the renovation of Memorial Hall will be financed through the rent of the building to the federal court, Brown said.

President Clinton still has to sign off on the legislation before it is official.