Cleanup efforts got underway in earnest Monday at the site of what was one of Meridian's most historic buildings. To the dismay of some, the owner had it torn down Saturday. According to an engineer, the building was not structurally sound. Formerly known as the Fielder and Brooks Drug Store, many people referred to it as the COFO building because it housed a number of civil rights organizations during the 1960s.
"All is not lost, no no."
That's Dr. Charles Johnson's response to the tearing down of the COFO building. During the Civil Rights Movement he worked as a liason between the Council of Federated Organizations, which was also known as COFO, and churches. He's also known as the key witness to take the stand in the trial dubbed as the 'Mississippi Burning' case, which involved the murders of the three civil rights workers who also worked at the building.
"We don't want a building that's unsafe to be standing, and I think that some engineers had gone in the building, and found out that the building was not safe," says Johnson.
Former COFO worker Amy Maeda of Meridian somewhat agrees.
"I've been told that there were a lot of problems with it, and that it was dangerous, but at the same time part of me kind of wonders if some of it was, 'Let's just kind of get it out of the way, and we don't have to think about it anymore," says Maeda.
"The original COFO building has already been torn down," says Dr. Johnson. "It stood directly across from the police station. It's already been torn down, and the building that's being torn down now was just a building that we rented after the original COFO building was leaking, and we couldn't get the roof fixed. I support any other, even the placing of a marker or something, to say that this is where the COFO building was."
"There needs to be some focal point, a pointer, a marker," says Maeda. "There needs to be something that says, 'this is a marker or stone and on this spot these things occurred. Don't forget them!'
According to the owner of the property, Lauderdale County Judge Veldore Young, at this time there are no immediate plans for the site.