Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Two Water Fountains - TBT

   I have walked the hallways of the Brazos County courthouse for many years. The current courthouse is the county's sixth. It was originally built in the mid 1950's and then remodeled in the mid 1980's in sort of slapdash fashion. It is now in the midst of another remodel. Even my untrained eye can see where the old courthouse ends and the mid 1980 edition was engrafted on to it. 

   The design of the old section of the courthouse placed the 85th District Courtroom was at one end of a hallway, the County Courtroom at the other. In between are the two water fountains pictured. I walked by those water fountains for years before I realized they were remnants from the Jim Crow era. They are not functional.

   In  an era of renewed racial tension, I wonder how many jury panelists, waiting to be voir dired,  figure out what those fountains are. Do defendants summoned to the courthouse, many of them persons of color, understand what those fountains represent? 

   Several years ago, I asked John M. Barron, Jr., now deceased, about Jim Crow at the Courthouse. He was very helpful, open and accommodating about my questions. His father had been the 85th District Court judge in the 1960's. I asked him first about the water fountains. "The one on the right had the 'Colored' sign over it" he said.

   I asked about other segregated facilities in the courthouse. "The restrooms on the third floor on the old side of the courthouse had 'White Only' on them", he told me. "My father actually cut the 'White' off the restroom signs sometime in the '60's. They took the 'Colored' and 'White' signs down from above the water fountains about the same time".

    I asked John where the old "Colored" restrooms were in the courthouse. "Basement" was his reply. Access to the basement is behind a locked door off the main lobby with a sign marked "Authorized Personnel Only".  Walled off. Forgotten. Not talked about. Or just ignored in plain sight like the water fountains. 

  Rest in peace John, and thanks. I hope to see you again, God willing. I will be seeing some of rest of you at the Courthouse, somewhere near the two water fountains.


No comments:

Post a Comment