Congressman Cohen Applauds Committee Passage of Bill Renaming Memphis Federal Building for Judge Odell Horton

March 24, 2021
Press Release
In brief remarks, explains why Clifford Davis’ name should be removed

MEMPHIS – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, applauds the Committee for  passing his bill, H.R. 390, to redesignate the Federal Building located at 167 North Main Street in Memphis as the “Odell Horton Federal Building,” . The bill was passed by a voice vote and is now eligible for consideration by the full House of Representatives. The measure has the support of the entire Tennessee Congressional delegation, as well as the strong endorsement of Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, Subcommittee Chairwoman Dina Titus  and other senior members of the committee, who spoke in its favor.

Before the vote, Congressman Cohen urged the committee to report the measure favorably to the full House and said in part:

“This is the first bill I spoke for in Congress back in 2007…I had thought about naming the building just for Judge Horton at the time but I didn’t think the political will was there. So we named the building that had been named for (Congressman) Clifford Davis, the Clifford Davis – Odell Horton Building…

Judge Horton left a remarkable legacy as the first black federal judge appointed since Reconstruction.

When he passed away in 2006, an editorial in The Commercial Appeal stated, ‘Few people could match his service and leadership in the community and his dedication to the law.’

Now, in 2021, I believe it is 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.

Clifford Davis signed the Southern Manifesto, a resolution denouncing the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. He also voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that banned segregation in public places and prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Recently, Clifford Davis’ family even released a statement supporting the removal of his name from the building.

They said, ‘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 that our community can look with pride and respect to the Federal Building in Memphis.

It is time to fully recognize Judge Horton’s contributions and life of public service and solely name the federal building in his honor. 

I want to thank all the members of the Tennessee Delegation, including Mr. Burchett who sits on this Committee, for cosponsoring this important legislation.

I also appreciate the support of the Chairman and the members of this Committee and urge passage of this legislation.”

See the entire mark-up of the bill, including Congressman Cohen’s remarks, here.

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 name of the late Congressman Clifford Davis unattainable.

The measure reported favorably to the full House today is cosponsored by the entire bipartisan Tennessee Congressional delegation including: Representatives Tim Burchett, Jim Cooper, Scott DesJarlais, Chuck Fleischmann, Mark Green, Diana Harshbarger, David Kustoff and John Rose.