We pause today to reflect on the history of the grand old building that we know as the J. Bratton Davis United States Bankruptcy Courthouse. Built to replace the Reconstruction era federal courthouse at the corner of Main and Laurel Streets (now Columbia’s City Hall), construction of the “new” federal district courthouse and office building began in 1936.
Judge John J. Parker, senior member of the Court of Appeals, spoke at the January 18, 1937 dedication of the new federal courthouse at 1100 Laurel Street and stated that the beautiful building was “committed to the administration of justice.” Clint T. Graydon of the Richland Bar Association referred to the new building as “a Temple of Justice, not a monument.” A photograph of members of the bar standing on the front steps of the courthouse was taken. A framed copy of the photograph is displayed in the Public Services area on the first floor and is one of our prized possessions. Some of you may recall Judge J. Bratton Davis reminiscing, on the occasion of a ceremony to mark his retirement that he, then a young student at the University of South Carolina, was present at the dedication and thought that someday the building might be important.
The building housed the United States District Court and a host of federal agencies until 1979. The District Court relocated to the Strom Thurmond Courthouse in 1979 and is now in the Matthew J. Perry Jr. Courthouse. The Bankruptcy Court and United States Attorney jointly occupied the building for a number of years, but eventually outgrew it and the United States Attorney moved off-site. In 2000 the building was renamed in honor of Judge Davis.
The Historic Columbia Foundation published a short monograph concerning the building. You can find it here.