Name for Cape courthouse in works since '04

Saturday, September 9, 2006

A Senate bill has been introduced to name the new building after Rush H. Limbaugh Sr.

Naming the new Cape Girardeau federal courthouse after the late Rush H. Limbaugh Sr. is an idea that's been brewing for a few years, U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson said Friday.

Some with an interest in the building have suggested that, like the new Mississippi River bridge, the building should honor Emerson's late husband, U.S. Rep. Bill Emerson.

While flattering, Emerson said, the bridge is "a magnificent tribute, and that is plenty."

Discussions of whose name to put on the $50 million courthouse began about the time construction started in 2004, Emerson said. Rush Limbaugh Sr., who practiced law in Cape Girardeau for almost 80 years, is the most fitting symbol of both the legal profession and dedication to community service, she said.

"It was kind of a no-brainer," she said. "He was just a perfect person."

Limbaugh died in 1996 at age 104. He continued working as a lawyer almost to the end of his life. He has several children and grandchildren who are lawyers, including U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh Sr. and Missouri Supreme Court Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr.

Community leaders said the decision to put Limbaugh's name on the courthouse was made with little local input but added they have no objections to the choice.

"We did not suggest any names for the courthouse," said John Mehner, president and CEO of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce. "I love the name they came up with but did not suggest any names."

The chamber honors Limbaugh by giving its top annual community service award in his name.

Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson said he's discussed the name with congressional staff members but never in a formal setting. The initiative for the name, he said, came from U.S. Sens. Kit Bond and Jim Talent. "This is something they felt strongly about. They had done their homework, and sometimes the decisions are made easier when there is an obvious recipient."

The choice of a name isn't official. Bond and Talent jointly introduced a bill in the Senate to put Limbaugh's name on the courthouse. Emerson plans to do the same in the House.

Congress must approve the legislation, which shouldn't be difficult, said Emerson and Shawna Stribling, a spokeswoman for Bond. The bill should be approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee next week, Stribling said.

The only question is timing. Congressional leaders plan to send lawmakers home at the end of September to campaign for re-election. Emerson said the Congressional schedule calls for them to return to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 13.

The courthouse, which has been under construction since February 2004, is expected to be completed in early 2007. Emerson said she's confident the naming legislation will be passed before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Waiting until a building is near completion is standard procedure for naming federal buildings, Stribling said. "It is something that has been discussed since the money was appropriated," she said. "Now seems an appropriate time."

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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