COFO Building Restoration

Efforts are gaining steam to restore one of Meridian's historic buildings.

Last year the state of Mississippi awarded $210,000 to restore what was once Fielder and Brooks Drug Store in downtown.

That building housed the Council of Federated Organizations Office, also known as COFO in 1964.

With the 50 year anniversary of Freedom Summer '64 just one year away, there are energized efforts to start the work.

The address for the COFO office in Meridian was 2505 5th Street. In 1964 COFO offices were only established in Mississippi. These offices were 'one stop shops' which brought together the resources of four prominent civil rights groups of the time: the NAACP, SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) and SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee).

'Freedom 64,' which is a progressive community group in Meridian that was founded by local civil rights icon, Roscoe Jones, is spearheading the effort to renovate the building.

"Well, March we'd like to have people in here working,' says Jones. 'We're going to have to gut the building and then we're going to have to structurally put another frame on the inside of the building because if we tear it down, it's not a historical building anymore. So, we have to maintain the integrity of the building."

Once the renovation is finished, the second floor of the building will house a museum and interpretive center.

As for the bottom floor, Jones says he wants it to be used to help young people by possibly providing some type of educational opportunity. However, he says community meetings will likely be held to ultimately determine how that floor will be used.

'We're going to train students how to do oral histories and then they will do oral histories," says Jones. "Say that you want to find out about Roscoe Jones. You go over; you find Roscoe Jones and push a button and up pops an interview with Roscoe Jones. So, you can listen to what Roscoe Jones has to say about the Civil Rights Movement in 1964."

Jones says what's still needed to help preserve history about the local Civil Rights Movement is $55,000 so that the restoration work can start. In coming weeks a large fundraiser for the effort is expected to be announced. At this time, no other details about that fundraiser are available.