Tuscaloosa Rotarians Visit Federal Courthouse

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Recent legislation intended to beautify America’s public buildings hasn’t always worked as planned. By law ½ of 1% of all building costs in federal buildings must be spent on art and architecture. In some cases the money – our money—has paid for some odd projects, including a steel girder that was simply left to rust in the rain.


But the legislation has helped bring downtown Tuscaloosa to life. Last week Rotarians got a tour of the massive Greek Revival building on University Boulevard that is home to our new federal offices. The complex measures over 127,000 square feet, and was recently completed, under budget, at a cost of $47.8 million.


The complex is home to several important new offices: U.S. District Court Judge Scott Coogler and Senator Richard Shelby, Social Security, the FBI, a federal bankruptcy court, and the U.S. Marshal’s Office.


Rotarians eased through security and then enjoyed a boxed lunch from Newk’s in a downstairs meeting room. U.S. Federal Judge Scott Coogler then welcomed Rotarians upstairs in his courtroom—or rather, as he emphasized, “your” courtroom. Coogler stressed that the building, and all of its work, belong to the people of the United States.


Coogler introduced Rotarians to some of his staff and to the general workings of his courtroom, as well as to the story surrounding the conceptualization of the need for and the design of the building. Coogler’s own courtroom, in fact, was actually designed (and re-designed) with input from practicing attorneys.


Attention then turned to the culutral centerpiece of the building: The sixteen historical murals of Tuscaloosa by aritst Caleb O’Connor. Coogler and his senior clerk presented a detailed account of each mural, including how O’Connor chose his scenes, drafted his concepts, and executed his work. There was also discussion of how O’Connor often used models from the Tuscaloosa community for his subjects, including Coogler himself—and maybe even a few Rotarians….


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