J.L. Chestnut Jr. and Bruce C. Boynton Judicial Building named

Published 8:16 am Wednesday, September 15, 2021

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Last year, the Dallas County Commission set a goal to rename its Courthouse Annex after two Civil Rights Icons.

The goal came to fruition on Tuesday with the unveiling of the J.L. Chestnut Jr. and Bruce C. Boynton Judicial Building.

Dallas County Probate Judge Jimmy Nunn, Commissioners Curtis Williams, Jan Justice, Vivian Rogers and Connell Towns alongside the familes of Chestnut and Boynton unveiled the new name.

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“It’s a great day in Selma to celebrate the dedication of the new building named after J.L. Chestnut Jr. and Bruce C. Boynton,” Nunn said. “Dallas County citizens wanted this and we made it happen.”

Chestnut, who died in 2008, was the first black attorney in Selma. Boynton who began the Freedom Riders in the 1960s, died last year.

Betty Boynton, Boynton’s widow, said renaming the courthouse annex for both men was a long time coming.

“They were the first two black attorneys in Selma, it needed to be named after them,” Betty Boynton said.

State. Representative Prince Chestnut, D-Selma, said it was an honor learning from his cousin.

“JL Chestnut, Jr. worked so hard to make life easier for the underdog,” Chestnut said. “He sacrificed for the betterment of others. He was my older cousin and a mentor.   I learned at his feet and I’m thankful for the lessons.

“The work he did for nearly five decades, particularly in the 50s and 60s representing marchers and leaders in that courthouse, makes it an appropriate honor.”

Chestnut and Boynton were both praised throughout the dedication for being pioneers during the racial injustice of the 1950’s and 60’s.

“Bruce was the most thorough lawyer I knew,” Dallas County Circuit Court Judge Collins Pettaway Jr. said. “I was a partner with J.L. He molded me into the lawyer I am today.”

Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr., the city’s first African-American mayor, said it was important for him to acknowledge what Boynton and Chestnut accomplished.

“My only regret is that they’re not here to see this day,” Perkins said. “But their families are here to see this day and we can thank them. On behalf of the Mayor, Selma City Council, we thank you.”

Dallas County District Attorney Michael Jackson said renaming the courthouse annex after Boynton and Chestnut is the right move.

“Boynton and Chestnut are two legends that deserved this honor,” Jackson said. “J.L. Chestnut was the best trial attorney I have seen in the courtroom.. Bruce Boynton was courageous and had a brilliant mind.”

Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman attended the ceremony.

“It is befitting and historic to see,” Siegelman said. “It shows that things can change.”

Retired Circuit Court Judge John England was master of ceremony.

Lynnethia Bennett and Rev. Evelyn Scott each delivered solos.

Faya Rose Toure delivered the Litany.

State Senator Malika Sanders-Fortier delivered the closing remarks.

Blackbelt Bar Association President Jeffrey Robinson and Selma/Dallas County Bar Association President J. Wesley Kelly IV also spoke on the program.

Alabama Lawyers Association, Alabama Lawyers Association Judicial Council, Blackbelt Bar Association, Chestnut, Sanders and Sanders, City of Selma, Dallas County Commission, Retired Circuit Court Judge John England, Circuit Court Judge Don McMillan, Probate Judge Jimmy Nunn, Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr., Dallas County Circuit Court Judge Collins Pettaway Jr., Selma Americorps, Selma/Dallas County Bar Association, ALEA Marine Patrol Region 3 Commander Lt. Donald Shepard Jr. and Dallas County Circuit Court Judge Marvin Wiggins were the event sponsors.