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Huntsville breaks ground for long-awaited federal courthouse

HUNTSVILLE –  Good things come to those who wait.

And a great thing came to Huntsville after a 20-year wait.

(GSA.gov rendering)

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) presided over a groundbreaking ceremony for the long-awaited federal courthouse in Huntsville. It has been some 20 years since the city purchased the land at 660 Gallatin and Lowe Avenue. The building scheduled to open in 2024, will house the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama.

“It’s a good thing we acquired the land so long ago because we couldn’t afford it today,” Shelby said. “You need this courthouse, and it is going to be here for a long time.”

The courthouse will include five courtrooms and six judges’ chambers. There will also be workspace for federal agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and the U.S Probation and Pretrial Services. The new courthouse will also have secured parking spaces for the judges who work there.

Senator Shelby shared the story leading up to securing the funds for a new courthouse.

“It started out with Judge Lynwood Smith and my late friend Herman “Buck” Watson who, between these two men, worried me to death about this courthouse,” he said to a laughing audience. “And they did not give up. When one called me, the other would be on the phone afterward to see what I promised.

“I was able to promise only the land at that time, and we thought the courthouse would follow the next year. But it would take more than 20 years before I would be able to stand here today to break ground.”

Smith passed credit on to Shelby.

“This groundbreaking will mark an important milestone for the fastest-growing region of Alabama,” said Smith, U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Alabama. “Years of planning, led by Richard Shelby, the longest-serving United States senator in Alabama history, made this event possible.”

Shelby said the new courthouse is about justice, about courts, the rule of law and addressing grievances.

“You are going to really have something here with this courthouse. Huntsville is a great city, and it is about to grow even more … people are moving here from everywhere,” he said. “And what a great location too. It’s a good thing we acquired the land so long ago because we couldn’t afford it today.

“You need this courthouse, and it is going to be here for a long time.”

Judge Liles Burke, resident district judge in Huntsville, spoke on behalf of judges James Smith, David Proctor, Sharon Blackburn, Annmarie Axon, Anna Manasco, Herman “Rusty” Johnson, Nick Danella and Clifton Jessup, about how delighted they were to see the day finally arrive.

“This project is on time, on budget, and on target,” he added to joyous applause.

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