Steve Cohen

01/21/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/21/2021 14:54

Congressman Cohen Introduces Bill to Rename Memphis Federal Building for Judge Odell Horton Alone

WASHINGTON - Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of both the Judiciary the Transportation and Infrastructure Committees, today introduced a bill to name the Memphis Federal Building at 167 North Main the Odell Horton Federal Building, honoring in his name alone the first African American federal judge to serve in the Western District of Tennessee since Reconstruction.

In one of his first acts as a Congressman in 2007, Congressman Cohen introduced and saw signed into law his bill adding the late Judge Horton's name to the Memphis Federal Building. He had hoped to rename the building for Judge Horton alone but the internal dynamics and political will of House leadership at the time made removing the late Congressman Clifford Davis' name unattainable.

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

'I was proud to introduce and see passed the bill to add Judge Odell Horton's name to the Downtown Memphis federal courthouse in 2007. Initially, I had hoped to simply re-name the building for Judge Odell Horton, but the political will to do so was not present at that time. Now, in 2021, it is well past time to rename the building solely for the barrier-breaking jurist and remove the name of Clifford Davis, a one-time Ku Klux Klan member and supporter of Jim Crow laws.

While our history is instructive and worthy of study, it is not necessarily worthy of honor. As the family of Clifford Davis has stated, 'We are proud of Cliff Davis' many contributions to Memphis, but his membership in the Klan and support for Jim Crow cannot be excused.' I completely agree and believe it is time to ensure our community can look with pride and respect at the Federal Building in Memphis. Judge Horton was a true man of honor who dedicated his life to public service. It is time to fully recognize his contributions and solely name the federal building in his honor.'

The measure introduced today is co-sponsored by the entire Tennessee Congressional delegation, including Representatives Tim Burchett, Jim Cooper, Scott DesJarlais, Chuck Fleischmann, Mark Green, Diana Harshbarger, David Kustoff and John Rose.

Judge Horton left a remarkable legacy as the first black federal judge appointed since Reconstruction. Judge Horton served as chief judge of the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee from January 1, 1987 until December 31, 1993. Prior to that, he was an Assistant U.S. Attorney, the president of LeMoyne-Owen College, the first African American member of Mayor Henry Loeb's city administration as the head of health and hospitals. Judge Horton died in 2006 at the age of 76.