It appears likely that the new Nashville federal courthouse will be named after former U.S. Republican Sen. Fred Thompson, according to a congressional source.
Congress needs to pass a measure to formally name the planned $194 million building after Thompson, who died last fall at age 73.
His eldest son, Fred D. (Tony) Thompson II, said he had received a call from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who shared that he and fellow U.S. Sen. Bob Corker would introduce a bill Thursday to name the new federal courthouse in honor of his father.
"It is such a special honor for my father, but also to have his dear old friends do this is very meaningful," Thompson II said. "I know that he would be very proud of this as all of us in his family will be for generations."
Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell said she had voiced her support for naming the building after Thompson to the state's two Republican U.S. senators. "I'd love to see that happen," she added. "It would be a good idea."
But not everyone is thrilled by the news. "My favorite thing would be to have a naming contest — let the people of Middle Tennessee decide because they’re paying for it," said U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, who lost a 1994 U.S. Senate race to Thompson.
Thompson, who started his law career as an assistant U.S. attorney when he was younger than 30, represented Tennessee in the U.S. Senate from 1994 to 2003. He was a Watergate attorney and also an actor, lobbyist, columnist and radio host.
As an actor, the Lawrenceburg, Tenn., native had roles in action thrillers such as 1993's "In the Line of Fire" and 1990's "The Hunt for Red October" and played District Attorney Arthur Branch on the television drama "Law & Order."
Planned along Church Street between Seventh Avenue North and Rosa L. Parks Boulevard, the new U.S. courthouse is targeted for completion in spring 2021. The building would house Middle Tennessee's U.S. District Court and other judiciary operations that are currently housed at the aging Estes Kefauver Federal Building and Courthouse Annex at 801 Broadway.
Congress' allocation of money for the project came after a more than two-decade effort by members of the state's congressional delegation, including Cooper and Alexander, and the local federal judiciary.
In 2006, an amendment tacked to a spending bill by U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) had sought to name the building after then U.S. Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Nashville native, according to published reports. The project, however, didn't receive funding that year.
On Wednesday, the U.S. General Services Administration announced that Katmai Support Services was awarded a roughly $1.8 million contract for demolition of a former state office building at Church Street and Rosa Parks Boulevard to make way for construction of the new courthouse. Concept design of the building is expected to be completed by March.