Update – A good friend just contacted me after reading this article and shared an article from another publication stating that the President and Vice President have just released their official portraits. Thank you for the feedback and thankful for friends taking time to point these things out to me!
The Texarkana, USA Federal Courthouse is a unique building that sits in both Texas and Arkansas. The building can be seen on post cards, is a frequent photoshoot site for tourist, and is the location where many U.S. Presidents have spoken going clear back to President Kennedy’s famous speech before his ill-fated trip to Dallas. Walk inside the doors and, although security concerns have modified the entrance, you can not help but be in awe of the design, the ceilings, the doors, and other significant features leap out at you filled with history. Walk around the main lobby of the Courthouse, also home to the post office, and you’ll notice the President and Vice-President’s pictures hanging just above the doors as you go out. They hang there as a reminder that this is a federal building and that they are part of the decor requirements of our federal buildings. As far as anyone can remember, the President and Vice President has had their portraits in the lobby of the famous Texarkana Courthouse always. Well, at least until January 20, 2017, when the tradition apparently stopped for some unknown reason.
On Inauguration Day 2009, George Bush walked out of the White House in our nation’s symbolic exchange of power and Barack Obama walked into it. On that day it wasn’t about being Democrat or Republican, it was only about the fact that the President of the United States had served his term, and a new President was now taking office. On that same day in Federal Courthouses across the land President Bush’s picture came down and President Obama’s was placed on the wall. In Texarkana, the lobby of the U.S. Courthouse saw the same exchange. President Obama would go on to serve two terms and on January 20, 2017, like Bush, President Obama would step down as President and hand over the reigns to the new President. Across the land in Federal Courthouses the exchange of pictures started. In Texarkana, President Obama’s picture came down, only this time, and perhaps for the first time in the courthouses’ history, no new President’s picture was hung from the old nail over the entrance to the courthouse lobby.
Within a few months the Four States News noticed the lack of the President’s picture and an article was published. Social media stirred with pictures and questions. Some expressed anger that the picture was not there while others expressed relief as they did not support President Trump. Through all the questions, nobody seemed to know why the new President’s picture was not hanging in the lobby.
A few more months rolled by and rumors regarding there being no official portraits of the President seemed weak at best. Postal workers stated that they had no control over the pictures. They noted that the General Service Administration or GSA had oversight and was responsible to hang up all pictures and federal postings.
A quick search of the Internet reveled a GSA number for information pertaining to the Federal Courthouse in Texarkana. After several calls, and no answers, the Four States News opted for the online email site. It requires a citizen to complete the form, press send and it goes off through the government’s email system. A sender gets no copy of the email. Despite sending the email through the government’s site a couple of months ago, there has been no response from the GSA to the Four States News’ inquiry regarding the President and Vice President’s portraits missing.
Several people in town have noticed it and commented. Former Texarkana, Arkansas Mayor Wayne Smith, now Chairman of the Miller County Republican Committee, stated that it is “Disgraceful when bureaucrats refused to put up the President’s picture.” Smith noted that all previous Presidents and Vice Presidents have been featured in the lobby of the Texarkana Federal Courthouse and he could see no reason that President Trump’s picture would be left out. Smith spent several years working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and always saw the President’s picture posted in those facilities. Some people noted that maybe the courthouse changed the location or policy, but if they did so, they picked an odd time to do it by stopping the tradition on Inauguration Day 2017.
Some people have speculated to the Four States News that perhaps whoever is over the GSA work at the Texarkana Courthouse simply does not like Trump. While that may be the case, this could be a dangerous road to travel down. While it might seem fine to you if you do not like Trump, what happens if someone else takes over later that does not like a President that you like? What if the next person at the GSA, for example, doesn’t like Democrats and decides that he or she will not post any Democrat Presidents? Do we allow political preferences to control or change what we post in federal buildings or how our federal employees work?
The fact is, Republican or Democrat, liked, loved, or despised, the President and Vice President of the United States has always had their official portraits hanging in the Federal Courthouse Lobby in Texarkana. For some reason, we are now in November of the first full year of a President’s term and there is no picture hanging in the lobby where they have always hung. Since the GSA in town has not responded to emails or calls, we can only assume they have independently decided to not put up the President and Vice President’s portraits. If there is another explanation for the sudden change in policy, maybe someone working with the GSA could tell us. After all, going through security to get upstairs at the courthouse usually requires a reason for the visit, and we seriously doubt that “We’re looking for the President’s picture” would be a valid reason for going other places outside the Federal Courthouse Lobby.
Perhaps a call from some representatives like John Ratcliffe, Tom Cotton or Bruce Westerman would gain more attention than we have been able to get up to this point.
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