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A century has passed over the Williamson County Courthouse and those years brought lots of changes around the building. A nearly $10 million restoration four years ago gave a facelift for the 100-year-old building wiping away those years. However, little traces of of courthouses’s past remain. These memories were highlighted by Mickie Ross the county’s museum director, who gave tours of the courthouse yesterday, as part of the centennial celebration.
Fact is: the building carries lots of cool stories, seen through those long years of its existence. During the tour Ross pointed at a sign on the wall, tucked behind a spiral staircase: “These seats for janitors only,” it read. While we don’t know what seats used to be there or who the janitors were or who was after their seats, she pointed on the lettering on the sign which matches the lettering on similar signs that designated which people could drink from which fountains, she added.
However, these signs were painted over in the mid 1960s, while the two water fountains remained lodged in the rotunda walls.
These fountains preserve stories too. According to Ross’ presentation, a board member’s daughter went into the courthouse for a drink is the 1960s and the she was detained by an officer in the building for drinking out of the wrong fountain. While today’s children do not understand the reason why that girl was in trouble, what Ross tried to underscore is that these fountains are part of our history.
Upstairs, a glass case holds the heads of terra cotta angels, which commissioners had torn from the building in what became known as the “Massacre of 1966.”
Most of the 26th District courtroom remains as it was in 1923. This was a memorable year, when the county’s district attorney at the time, Dan Moody, became the first attorney in the county to successfully prosecute a member of the Klu Klux Klan. This is a very important part of the county’s courthouse history, since most counties had at least one elected official who was a member of the Klan in the 20s. After 1923 not a single Klan member was elected in Texas.
“The county has a reputation of being ‘tough on crime.’ I believe it goes back to then,” Ross said.
Papers from that trial, and three subsequent trials through 1934, were recently taken by the Texas Court Records Preservation Task Force, a group organized by the Texas Supreme Court to preserve items that will help interpret the history of the state.