Local

ARCHIVE: 'Isn't this a spectacular view?'

This story originally was published Nov. 13, 2003, when the Dan M. Russell United States Courthouse was opened and dedicated.

Federal judges seemed as pleased as young homeowners at a housewarming as they led reporters on a tour of the Dan M. Russell Jr. United States Courthouse on Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Dan Russell Jr., the new building's namesake, joked about his height as he demonstrated the adjustable podium in the well of his mahogany-walled courtroom.

"This is good for a little fellow like myself," he said, pressing a small switch to lower the podium.

Floor-to-ceiling bay windows bathed Russell's sixth-floor judicial chambers in afternoon sunlight.

"Now you see this afternoon sunshine I get in here," Russell said, entering his spacious office, which overlooks the Mississippi Sound and downtown Gulfport.

On a clear day, U.S. Magistrate Judge John Roper can see Fort Massachusetts on Ship Island from his eighth-floor office.

"Isn't this a spectacular view?" Roper said, leading the tour through his chambers.

The halls on the building's upper floors offer court patrons impressive views of the city's small craft harbor and the state port. A row of windows line the back walls of the building's eight courtrooms. The two courtrooms on the eight-story building's top floor have skylights.

Other federal agencies also have offices in the building, and what was once Gulfport High School on 15th Street has been refurbished and now houses the U.S. Attorney and probation offices.

Architect Robert Kliment said the panoramic views and the abundance of natural light help foster a sense of openness between the public building and the surrounding community.

Among the $58 million building's few windowless rooms are the holding cells, which are equipped with steel bars and metal toilets.

Artistic flourishes in the lobby evoke a marine motif, connecting the courthouse to its waterfront community. Streaks of green glass embedded in the white floor represent the incoming tides, while a metal screen with coral patterns shields the metal detectors at the entrance.

Judges decorated their courtrooms. U.S. District Judge Walter Gex used light-brown pecan in his courtroom, but the other judges chose the more traditional dark mahogany.

The courtrooms are equipped with electronic screens allowing attorneys, jurors, judges and the audience to view documents.

Roper presided over a civil trial in his courtroom last week, and said the video screens helped streamline the proceedings.

An official dedication ceremony is scheduled for Friday afternoon on the courthouse grounds.

---Mike Cummings can be reached at 896-2393 or at mcummings@sunherald.com.

U.S. District Judge Dan M. Russell Jr. is photographed Wednesday in his courtroom at the new Federal Courthouse in Gulfport. The courthouse is scheduled to be dedicated on Friday at 2 p.m.

U.S. District Judge Dan M. Russell Jr.'s chambers in the United States Federal Courthouse boast a spectacular view of the Mississippi Sound and downtown Gulfport.

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