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Racism Alive And Well With Move To Deny Naming Federal Building After African-American Pioneer Judge

Phil Garber
9 min readApr 14, 2022

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Attention to all of you who believe that critical race theory is divisive and that there is no need to drum up the dark past years of slavery in our classrooms because institutional racism is a thing of the past.
Recall Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga.? He’s the esteemed member of that august establishment who said the mob of trump supporters who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020, behaved “in an orderly fashion” and that “[I]f you didn’t know that TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”
Clyde also was one of 21 members of Congress who voted against awarding Congressional Gold Medals to honor the Capitol Police officers who protected the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack.
Clyde’s latest shameful act was to pose a last minute objection that derailed a bi-partisan effort to rename a federal courthouse in Florida after Justice Joseph Hatchett, the trail blazing first Black State Supreme Court justice south of the Mason-Dixon line. Clyde said he opposed the renaming because of a ruling by Hatchett in 1999 that blocked student-approved prayers at public school graduation ceremonies in Florida. Clyde’s opposition was enough to convince 10 frightened Republicans who originally co-sponsored the legislation to change their votes and kill the bill. One of those switching his vote, was a co-sponsor, Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., of Florida. Asked why he changed his mind, he said, “I don’t know.”
It’s the latest in a continuing line of insults aimed at African Americans by the racist Republicans. Most recently, the questioning at Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at her Supreme Court confirmation hearings were laced with insults, from questioning her religious principles to accusing her of being a friend of pedophiles to the absurdity posed by Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who asked Jackson to define a woman.
Judge Hatchett, who died at 88 on April 30, 2021 , served 20 years as a federal circuit court judge, becoming Chief Judge of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals from 1996–99, when he retired from the bench. He was a member of the National Bar Association Hall of Fame and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Florida Supreme Court Historic Society in February 2021.
The ruling that drew Clyde’s sanctimonious anger involved a 2–1 decision by a panel of the 11th Circuit that overturned a lower court ruling that students have a First Amendment right to pray at graduation, though schools can’t force them to. The Duval County, Fla., school system had adopted the policy allowing high school students to select by majority vote a graduation message to be delivered by a student. Those messages — often prayers — could not be censored by school officials.
The appeals court, with Judge Hatchett, ruled that graduation ceremonies are controlled by the schools, and graduating students who object to the prayers have no alternative but to attend.
Judge Hatchett could not stay in the hotel where the Florida bar exam was being administered when he took it in 1959 because of Jim Crow laws segregating the South. When he was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, Judge Hatchett was the first Black man to serve on a circuit that covered the Deep South.
Typically, bills to rename public public buildings, bridges and roadways are routine and pass with little fanfare. History is littered with federal buildings that were renamed after “distinguished” officials with racist pasts.
The U.S. Courthouse in Mobile, Ala., was named after John A. Campbell who resigned from the U.S. Supreme Court at the outbreak of the Civil War to accept a role as Confederate assistant secretary of war. After the war, Campbell fought as an attorney against reconstruction in the South.
The Clifford Davis — Odell Horton Federal Building in Memphis, Tenn., bears the name of a longtime Democratic congressman in Tennessee who rose to political power with the support of the Ku Klux Klana and who later signed the Southern Manifesto in 1956, a resolution introduced in Congress to decry Brown v. Board of Education’s mandate that states end segregation in schools.
William M. Colmer, a former Democratic congressman from Mississippi was honored when his name was applied to the Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Hattiesburg, Miss. Colmer led the move to the creation of Southern Manifesto that implored southerners to use all “lawful means” to resist the “chaos and confusion” that school integration would cause. It was signed by 82 House members and 19 senators.
Another signer of the Southern Manifesto was Thomas G. Abernethy, after whom the Federal Building in Aberdeen, Miss., was named. A Democratic House member for 30 years, Abernethy left a legacy of racist speeches and writings. He infamously said that say God supported segregation.
Alton Lennon, honored with the Alton Lennon Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Wilmington, N.C., served in the Senate and House for more than 20 years and was the only southerner in Congress to vote against a measure citing the KKK for contempt of Congress.
Sen. Strom Thurmond served for 48 years and was a rabid segregationist and opponent of civil rights legislation. In his memory, the Strom Thurmond Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Columbia, S.C., was named. “There’s not enough troops in the Army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the Nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches,” he once said.
Rep. J.L. McMillan’s name is affixed to the Federal Building and Courthouse; Florence, S.C. McMillan served in the House for more than 30 years and made little effort to hide his racism. Once, when Washington’s black mayor sent the district’s first budget to Congress as it pushed for autonomous rule, McMillan responded by sending a truckload of watermelons to the mayor.
The Federal Building in Jacksonville, Fla., was named after Charles E. Bennett, who signed the Southern Manifesto and once called Robert E. Lee “the greatest of all southerners.”
Rep. Paul G. Rogers signed the Southern Manifesto and was against civil rights legislation. The Federal Building and Courthouse in West Palm Beach, Fla., are named after Rogers.
The George W. Andrews Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Opelika, Ala., was named after the congressman who also signed the Southern Manifesto and never quit his opposition to desegregation.
Sen. Richard B. Russell co-authored the Southern Manifesto and was honored when congress named the Federal Building in Atlanta, Ga., after him. Russell led a boycott of the 1964 Democratic convention after President Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, calling the landmark legislation, “shortsighted and disastrous.”
The Prince H. Preston Federal Building in Statesboro, Ga., honored the congressman who signed the Southern Manifesto and a letter requesting Veterans Administration to segregate its hospitals.
To show how the process is common and routine, the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W. Va., had more than 30 public properties named after him while a sitting senator. Among others, there is the Mitch McConnell Park in Bowling Green, Ky.; the C.W. Young Center for Bio-Defense and Emerging Infectious Disease, named after Rep. C.W. Young, R-Fla., who was the longest-serving Republican member of Congress at the time of his death in 2013; and numerous others.
Maybe there could be an Andrew Clyde Memorial Port-a-Pottie. It could also bear the names of the 10 Republicans who cowered and changed their votes after Clyde’s comments. All are serious trump supporters.
Clyde, who owns several gun shops in Georgia, is in his first term, representing largely rural territory north of Atlanta, including Gainesville, Toccoa, Dawsonville and Dahlonega. Prior to his election, he sued Georgia over its shelter-in-place COVID-19 restrictions. As a member of congress, on Jan. 6, 2021, during the 2021 Electoral College vote count, Clyde was one of 120 Republican representatives and five Republican senators who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results in both Arizona and Pennsylvania.
In June 2021, Clyde was among 14 House Republicans who voted against legislation to establish June 19, or “Juneteenth,” as a federal holiday to honor the end of slavery. On Feb. 28, 2022, Clyde was one of three representatives to vote against the Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act, which would make lynching a federal hate crime.
Both Florida Senators, Republicans Marco Rubio and Rick Scott sponsored and voted for the bill. The 10 Republicans who originally co-sponsored the legislation voted against their own bill, included Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Kat Cammack, Byron Donalds, Neal Dunn, Scott Franklin, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, John Rutherford and Greg Steube.
Buchanan entered Congress in 2007. With a net worth of $157.2 million, Buchanan is the 3rd-wealthiest member of Congress. He has been a trumper right down the line, supporting trump’s 2017 executive order to bar entry to the U.S. to citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. Bilirakis was one of 126 Republican members of the House to sign an amicus brief in support of Texas v. Pennsylvania, a lawsuit filed at the Supreme Court contesting the results of the 2020 presidential election. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case. As a result of the Capitol attack, trump was impeached a second time and Bilirakis voted against impeachment, calling it “politically motivated” and a “highly polarizing ruse that will only further divide Americans.”
Cammack is in her first term and at 34 is the third-youngest woman elected to Congress in the 2020 election cycle. She operates an independent political consulting firm and was endorsed by trump. She believes abortion should only be legal in extreme cases in the first trimester and she supported the construction of trump’s border wall along the Mexico–United States border. Cammack voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Donalds, an African American serving his first term in Congress, was blocked from joining the Congressional Black Caucus. Before entering politics, Donalds worked in the finance, insurance, and banking industries and in 2000, he pleaded guilty to a felony bribery charge as part of a scheme to defraud a bank but the charged was expunged after he entered the Florida House. He was elected to the Florida House in 2016 and coincidentally chaired the Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. Donalds voted to object to the certification of electors from Arizona and Pennsylvania in the 2020 presidential election.
Dunn is a surgeon who has been in Congress since since 2017. He was among the House Republicans to sign the amicus brief in support of Texas v. Pennsylvania. Dunn condemned the rioters who stormed the capitol but still voted to object to the certification of several states’ electoral votes for president.
Franklin, in his first term in Congress, is a Naval veteran, having spent 26 years in the Navy, 14 on active duty and 12 in the Naval Reserve.
His website notes that “Franklin is a capitalist who will stand up to socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who threaten American democracy.” He also is a gun owner who believes in Americans’ right to protect and defend their families, is “a Christian who will fight for family values” and is “pro-life.”
Mast also is a military veteran who has served in Congress since 2017. He lost both his legs while serving as an Army explosive ordnance disposal technician in Afghanistan in 2010. Between March and June 2018, Mast’s campaign received thousands of dollars from Soviet-born Igor Fruman, one of two business associates of Rudy Giuliani who later faced charges of violating federal campaign finance laws. During trump’s presidency, Mast voted in line with the president’s position 90.6 percent of the time. He supported Trump “unanimously and wholeheartedly” in the 2016 presidential election. He said trump’s remarks heard on the Hollywood Access tape were “inexcusable and disgusting” but later voted against both articles of impeachment against trump.
Rutherford, a member of Congress since 2017, was Duval County sheriff from 2003 to 2015. He aligned himself with trump’s positions 96.6 percent of the time. During his campaign for Congress, Rutherford called Black Lives Matter a “hate group”; and in 2020, he voted against the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a police reform bill aimed at preventing brutality and racial discrimination in policing. He voted against both trump impeachments and initially refused to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election, citing Trump’s false claims of election fraud and suggested that Republican-controlled state legislatures in swing states could hold a “decertification vote” that would lead to the House selecting the next president. After the capitol attack, Rutherford voted not to count the electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania. After Trump was impeached for his role in inciting the Capitol riot, Rutherford criticized Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., for voting to impeach Trump, accusing her of not being a “team player.”
Steube, a lawyer, has been in Congress since 2019. He has claimed that the “deep state” at the U.S.Food and Drug Administration was preventing the usage of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug, to treat COVID-19. Hydroxychloroquine has been shown as ineffective in treating COVID-19. Steube signed the amicus brief regarding the Texas vote, an act House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called an act of “election subversion.” Steube voted against giving the Congressional Gold Medal to police officers who defended the Capitol on Jan. 6.

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Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer