Citizen urges board to reconsider renaming courthouse, suggest referendum

Published 8:11 am Wednesday, June 7, 2023

BROOKHAVEN — Lincoln County’s dairy celebration, Supervisors morning breakfast and Scholarship awards was the brighter part of Monday’s Lincoln County Board of Supervisors meeting. Roy Smith stepped up to the podium to speak on the behalf of Lamar Smith’s family. 

He explained his appreciation of Lamar Smith’s memorial plaque and how excited he was to see the plaque would likely be installed in August, as discussed in a board meeting last week. Smith changed gears and reverberated his point that the Lincoln County Courthouse should be renamed to memorialize Lamar Smith. 

Lincoln County Board of Supervisors were asked to vote on renaming the courthouse in December by Roy Smith. District One Supervisor Jerry Wilson made a motion to take a vote but it failed without a second in the December meeting according to an article in The Daily Leader.

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Roy said he had a discussion with District Five Supervisor Doug Falvey in private and had hoped they would revisit the issue. He claimed Doug had promised to have a discussion with the board and call him back. Months have gone by and Roy has not gotten an update. 

“It should have been done 68 years ago. Put yourself in the shoes of this family. Put yourself in place of this family and remove yourself from prejudice. Have a serious discussion,” Roy Smith said. “We can’t change what happened. The only way we can change is by making good history. Commemorate this courthouse in Lamar Smith’s honor. Revisit the discussion.” 

Wilson said there had already been a vote on it and he was the only one who voted for it. Falvey explained the board had made its decision. Roy Smith said he had hoped the board had a change of heart.  Board Attorney Greg Malta recommended to the board if there was no change in facts then there was no basis for reconsideration. Malta was not acting board attorney when the motion failed in December as he was sworn in at the first January meeting of 2023. 

Eddie Brown said at the time he voted the way he did because all of the county courthouses in Mississippi are named after their county. He responded to Roy implying the issue was a racial one suggesting they needed to “attend racial sensitivity training. “It is not racial at all. Now is not the time for change,” Brown said. 

The discussion got heated when Roy Smith told Brown he needed to examine his heart and spiritual life. Brown responded “I’m in good shape.” Malta told Roy Smith he had gone too far. 

“You have essentially called everyone on this board a racist by suggesting we need racial training. I know what was said,” Malta said. 

Roy Smith quickly backtracked and apologized for his words. He said Lincoln County’s biggest problem is the unwillingness to change. “We choose to not be a leader,” he said. 

Wilson and Brown said they hate what happened to Lamar Smith and whatever had happened between Falvey and Roy Smith. It seemed like the conversation was over as tax collector Blake Pickering appeared before the board to give an update on a few things in his department. 

Wilson requested to say something when Pickering stepped away from the podium. He wanted to get a weight off of his chest in regards to the renaming of the courthouse discussion. 

“We do have a right to listen to what people have to say. I watched my mother go through this,” Wilson said. “They always shut her down. I’m really convicted and I promised I would never let it happen again. If you come before us, say what you have to say. It is a hurting situation. It is the same old stuff. You can’t shut them down all the time. I was expected to be a voice for the people in my district. I watched my momma go through it. I hate it for this family. Everyone has a right to say what they have to say. We don’t know what happened in (Roy Smith and Doug Falvey’s) conversation. Come before the board and talk about it. It just hurts my heart. If someone gets killed it hurts. Let’s do this the right way. My heart is heavy with this.” 

Roy Smith thanked Wilson for the words of encouragement and what they meant to the family. He urged the board again to reconsider the vote despite Malta’s recommendation. “It is time for a change. Change can start right here today for the better. For the entire world. The eyes of the world will be upon you,” Roy Smith said. 

Falvey responded by saying “I would hope as a board we take everything into consideration and make a decision on the right thing to do. We have to make these decisions sometimes where not every party is happy. There is a lot of thought that goes into decisions. I apologize for not getting back to you.”

Roy Smith asked if it was possible for the board to have a referendum by the people to vote on renaming the courthouse. Lincoln County held a special election in 2022 to legalize medical marijuana in the county after the Board of Supervisors opted out of the program. County residents voted in favor of legalizing marijuana and stopping the opt by a slim margin

Malta told the board he would look into a referendum and report to the board in their next open session meeting. Lincoln County Board of Supervisors will meet on June 8th for a Payroll and Docketts meeting and its regular board meeting will be on June 19 at 9 a.m.