Federal Courthouse (Old Post Office)


Federal Courthouse

Judge Frank Johnson

Federal Judge FRANK M JOHNSON, as he appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine in 1967. Johnson, who was appointed to Federal Bench in 1955, and was a native of North Alabama, presided over a reign of terror across central Alabama for 30 years. He destroyed the public school system, dismantled the city park system, demolished the state mental health system, over-rode state sovereignty and empowered the Selma March and the Freedom Riders tour. He was ruthless toward anyone that stood in his path. All state and local officials trembled when his name was mentioned. The Federal Courthouse in Montgomery, pictured left above, and its 1999 addition shown above, were named for Johnson circa 2003.

Completed 1933 on the site of the Court Street Methodist Church –which moved itself to the new Cloverdale suburb and became First Methodist. The 5-story structure faces Church Street and was designed in Renaissance Style by Montgomery’s renowned architect, Frank Lockwood –probably his outstanding work. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. This was the Post Office -no one knew there was a Federal Court on upper floors. But they found out the hard way –This is where the nation’s civil rights issues were decided, where Judge Frank Johnson held forth and terrorized all comers. He even jailed people for making noise when his court was in session. Johnson lived around the corner from me on Old Farm Road in a modest bungalow, but you always saw a black sedan in his drive, home to two Secret Service agents.

Federal Courthouse Addition

This handsome addition to Frank Lockwood’s 1929 Federal Courthouse & Post Office was erected by GSA in 1999, and the resultant complex was named for Frank Johnson. He was the federal judge who reigned misery onto central Alabama for the quarter century of our civil rights catharsis. In this view, the old building (red roof) is on the left, and the circular addition (made famous by the trial of former Governor Don Seigleman) is to the right. Its construction displaced our historic Barnes School (see Page 43) with impunity, but ran into politically correct furor when the old Greyhound Bus Station  (site of civil rights confrontations) was to be taken. The bus station is still there, albeit an empty hulk. The project also took a block of Molton Street, which allowed Troy University to then close the next block and absorb that stretch of Molton into its downtown campus.

 

Federal Courthouse Construction

1934 – Construction of the Courthouse
Courtesy of Alabama Department of Archives and History

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