Miss. governor sets panel to study possible civil rights museum

Published 5:07 pm Friday, September 22, 2006

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour on Thursday appointed two prominent former judges to lead a commission that will consider developing a museum to focus on Mississippi’s civil rights history.

One is Reuben Anderson of Jackson, who in 1985 became the first black member of the Mississippi Supreme Court after being appointed by Gov. Bill Allain.

The other commission leader is former federal Appeals Court Judge Charles Pickering of Laurel, who underwent a bruising confirmation battle before President Bush gave him a recess appointment in January 2004. Pickering, who had served for more than a decade as a U.S. district judge, served on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for nearly a year before stepping down.

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During the confirmation fight, Democrats accused Pickering of supporting segregation as a young man, and promoting anti-abortion and anti-voting rights views as a state lawmaker. Pickering has repeatedly defended his record on civil rights, including his service the past several years on a racial reconciliation group at the University of Mississippi.

Barbour, a Republican, said he wants Mississippi to have “world-class” civil rights museum.

“There is enormous interest in the history of the civil rights movement, and I am convinced visitors will come from all over the country — indeed, from all over the world — to experience the historical essence that the museum can and must capture,” Barbour said in a news release.

Barbour said there are three advisory committees, including a previously appointed committee of legislators, a historical advisory committee, and a university committee.

The commission consists of three groups to study finance and design, location, and presentation. Commission members will meet for three months and complete an interim report by December.