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A “GRAND” GRAND OPENING / Cutting the ribbon on new courthouse and on future -By Scott Jester

By Scott Jester, 05/23/22 12:57 AM

HOPE, AR – Save for a pesky persistent wind on last Thursday, it was a perfect day to cut the ribbon and officially open the “new” Hempstead County Courthouse.

To many, the grand opening was similar to finally getting to open that last gift under the Christmas tree, the one you’ve known what was under the wrapping, but could now officially make it your own.

With money raised through a special tax, the citizens now walk through a threshold that represents a multilevel collaboration between local leaders, politicians, architects, and of course, the every-day taxpayer.

The festivities got underway with the presentation of the national and state colors, followed by a stirring rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner by talented local entrepreneur, Arnetta Bradford.

Serving as primary speakers and hosts for the program were Hempstead County Judge Jerry Crane and Justice of the Peace Steve Atchley, who sprinkled in personal stories and recognition to the many in attendance.

Farmers Bank and Trust CEO Chris Gosnell made remarks and read a special plaque with sentiments from Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison and the final speaker was State Representative Danny Watson, who presented a commemorative United States flag that was to replace the current flag at the courthouse.

The program was not complete without beautifully-spoken prayers by recently-named Hampstead County Citizen of the Year and local pastor Jessie Henry, humbly giving thanks and asking for blessings from the One who made it all possible.

During the program, proper respects and recognition was given to the late County Judge Haskell Morris, who served during the earliest stages and was instrumental in making it possible for the project to get off the ground.

Many in the crowd were recognized, but appreciation had to go to all who represented Farmers Bank and Trust. From the CEO and virtually the entire staff who previously occupied the new courthouse as their own place of business, each were present at the ribbon-cutting event, continuing to serve and support this endeavor.

Special thanks too must go to our new Chamber of Commerce Director Christy Burns and those behind-the scenes, who took great strides to make the area look as beautiful on the outside as the inside. Plus, many thanks to those who prepared the terrific food and cake to feed a hungry, but appreciative public.

Before we continue forward, we as a local community and county must look back and remember the previous courthouse on which we now close the doors.

Since construction took place in 1939, we were fortunate to have her.

From serving as a local bomb and storm shelter, to the many courtroom dramas, to the countless election results that were read out loud late at night to an awaiting public, she, during much of that time, presented a sturdy image. She sent a message of stability in this little, country corner of the state.

Wonderful memories and memorials still remain on the old courthouse grounds. Continue to visit them. Please.

But for this new, shiny, state-of-the-art courthouse, there was a great, fresh energy in the air last Thursday. The crowd seemed ready to come together. To be together with friends and strangers alike and without the masks that previously would have shielded the many beautiful smiles that were on display last week.

There was a meaningful spirit of cooperation in the air too. From the brokers of the sale of the bank building, to the politicians, elected or not, passing and seeing the tax through to the end, to making the physical transition, to now making it official. Cooperation on all levels.

There was also genuine love between the members of this community on that special Thursday. From the opening prayer to the casual way the visitors shook hands and even traded much-needed hugs. Citizens of all races and backgrounds loving each other. Each happy to share in that much-awaited Christmas gift.

However, it doesn’t mean the judges will be more lenient when you are trying to talk your way out of a speeding ticket just because they now work in beautiful new chambers.

Justice is blind to nice interiors.