As new federal courthouse nears completion, it's time to choose a name

Monday, August 14, 2006

Most federal buildings are named after elected federal officials.

With about four months before the completion of the new federal courthouse in Cape Girardeau, the question remains: What will its name be?

Naming federal buildings after a person is a fairly new trend that has gained popularity in the last 20 years or so, according to Charlie Cook, spokesman for the General Services Administration, which oversees construction and operation of federal buildings.

The $50 million federal courthouse, at Independence and Frederick streets, was expected to open at the first of the year and, if it follows the current trend, will be named after someone.

The old Federal Building at 339 Broadway was never named after anyone.

Missouri Eastern District court clerk Jim Woodward said it was likely never named because when it was built in the 1960s, naming a federal building was not as common as it is today.

In recent years, the naming of a federal building mostly happens around the time it opens or shortly after, Cook said.

State Rep. Nathan Cooper, R-Cape Girardeau, said he could think of no better person than the late U.S. Rep. Bill Emerson.

"He gave a great deal of his time and wonderful service to our area," Cooper said, adding naming the courthouse after him would be especially significant as the building sits in the shadow of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge.

Cooper noted that most federal buildings are named after elected federal officials. But if the new courthouse were not to be named after Emerson, he suggested the late Judge Rush H. Limbaugh Sr.

"It's a wonderful opportunity to the people of Cape Girardeau to honor one of their own," he said.

Mayor Jay Knudtson agreed, saying there were many people who would be good candidates for having the building named after them.

"Cape Girardeau has certainly been a town with a number of folks coming out of the federal level," he said. While the mayor declined to provide names of people he would like the building to be named after, he said he looked forward to discussions on the process.

The process of naming a federal building involves a congressional request, Cook said.

A U.S. senator or representative will tack on a provision for naming a federal building after someone onto a bill, which is then voted on. If it passes, the name becomes official.

Jeff Connor, a spokesman from U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's office, said he was unaware of any timeline for naming the building. Emerson would examine the process and go from there, he said.

335-6611, extension 127

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