By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- Politicians sat next to judges and county residents at the United States Courthouse in Fort Pierce on Dec. 17 when it held a ceremony officially naming both the courthouse and the inside atrium after two St. Lucie County men, Judge Alto Lee Adams Sr. and Dr. William R. Dannahower.
"The real treasure of this state did not sink off the coast," said Shyam Reddy, regional administrator for the United States General Services Administration. "They worked and lived here every day."
Judge Adams Sr., whom the courthouse was named after, moved to Fort Pierce in 1924 and practiced law. He is the founder of Adams Ranch, located west of Fort Pierce.
In 1938, he was appointed by Gov. Fred Cone as a circuit court judge for the county and in 1940 was appointed to sit on the Florida Supreme Court, where he served until 1951. He served the Supreme Court again for one year in 1967 and died in 1989.
"My father's life was about the law," said Alto "Bud" Lee Adams Jr., Mr. Adams' son, who attended the event.
"The U.S. constitution was his bible. I'm so proud of this courthouse and what it symbolizes."
Dr. Dannahower received the recognition of having the inside atrium named after him. What makes this unusual is that federal buildings, including interior spaces, are usually named after individuals who have either worked in the building or were an employee of the agency that occupies the building. Dr. Dannahower was neither of these, but it was through his efforts that the courthouse became a reality.
"We celebrate the end of a journey that began back in 1987," he said. "We're here for the last step in a very long process."
He was former mayor and commissioner of Fort Pierce starting in 1962. He served again as mayor from 1985 through 1995.
One of his accomplishments was his dedicated work to keep the federal courthouse in Fort Pierce.
In 1987, he succeeded in establishing a federal courthouse in a small room at the post office on Orange Avenue, and worked on establishing a larger venue. Plans for a new building were delayed when the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 forced the plans to require heightened security.
After Dr. Dannahower left his position as mayor, he continued his efforts on the courthouse by chairing a task force and traveling to Washington several times to lobby for the building.
In 2012, Judge Federico Moreno contacted Mr. Reddy to see about naming the atrium after Dr. Dannahower. A waiver was granted to name the space after him.
"This has been a long time in the making," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who gave the ceremony's closing remarks. "This is an extraordinary community that has great leaders coming from it."