This impressive four-story concrete building provided offices for federal programs, a courtroom for federal judges, and the local post office. Postmaster General James A. Farley dedicated the building during the city’s annual Mule Day Festival in 1940. (Van West, C. 2001. Federal courthouses and post offices: Maury County, Columbia. Tennessee’s New Deal Landscape: A Guidebook. Knoxville: TN: University of Tennessee Press, p. 67)
The print of the April 1, 1940 Kingsport Times is blurred, but it appears as if around 50-60,000 people were present–probably most of them for the “largest street mule market in the world” (p. 1). Farley was at that time an announced candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency if President Roosevelt decided not to run for a third term, and many in Tennessee were hopeful for a Hull-Farley ticket with Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Farley’s Tennessee mule, “Queenie” was expected to accompany him (“Farley to take mule to Columbia”, Kingsport Times, February 20, 1940, p. 5).
The PWA Moderne design features an eagle sculpture, by Sidney Waugh of Massachusetts, completed in 1941. The entrance lobby showcased a mural by Henry Billings, Maury County Landscape, installed in 1942.
Billings portrayed the recent transformation of the country’s rural landscape, caused by phosphate mining, chemical companies, burley tobacco farming, and the arrival of TVA-generated electricity. (Van West, p. 69)