It takes an act of congress to rename a Federal building, and that is exactly what happened.

Today Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in historic downtown Helena bears a brand new name following Friday morning's special ceremony. The historically significant structure has been re-christened the Jacob Trieber Federal Courthouse.

It takes an act of congress to rename a Federal building, and that is exactly what happened.

Today Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in historic downtown Helena bears a brand new name following Friday morning’s special ceremony. The historically significant structure has been re-christened the Jacob Trieber Federal Courthouse.

Federal, state and local officials came together to dedicate the new name for the building that houses the federal courthouse for the Eastern District of Arkansas as well as the Helena Post Office.

The building was constructed in 1961 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A Helena native, Judge Trieber (1853-1927) was the first Jewish federal judge. Trieber and his family emigrated to the U.S. from Prussia (now Poland) in 1866 just after the close of the U.S. Civil War and resided in St. Louis, Missouri. The family moved to Helena in 1868 where they established a business and became U.S. citizens.

President William McKinley appointed Trieber to the bench in 1900 where he served until his death in 1927.

He is credited with several significant rulings in the areas of civil rights and wildlife conservation. He was noted for a lifetime of public service that included serving as U.S. attorney from the Eastern District of Arkansas, a member of the Helena City Council and Phillips County Treasurer.

Judge Trieber also played a major role in saving the Old State House and was influential in the establishment of the state tuberculosis sanatorium.

Friday’s ceremony was a joint effort of the U.S. General Services Administration and the U.S. District Court of Eastern Arkansas.

“I am proud to represent GSA as we honor and memorialize Judge Jacob Trieber for his important contributions to the Eastern District of Arkansas,” commented Sylvia Hernandez, GSA regional administrator. “The dedication and naming of this historic federal courthouse in his honor demonstrates our respect and appreciation for the work he did.”

Also on hand were U.S. Senator John Boozman and U.S. Congressman Rick Crawford. Boozman and Crawford introduced the legislation to rename the courthouse and federal building in honor of Trieber in the Senate and the House respectively.

 “This is an important day as we recognize a public servant,” said Boozman, “his influence spans far beyond the borders of Helena and Phillips County to our entire nation. Judge Trieber’s life is a great example of the American dream.”

Boozman spoke of Trieber’s significance in U.S. history as he reminded guests, “The honorable Jacob Trieber paved the way for diversity on the Federal bench as the first Jewish Federal judge.”

Boozman continued, “It is rare that congress can move legislation quickly but after telling my colleagues about the life of Judge Trieber and shared his story, we were able to get this bill passed in a very short amount of time. You hear about the rancor and disagreements that happen in Washington, but there was no disagreement with this.”

Crawford admitted,  “When my office was first approached about the idea of renaming Helena’s Federal building, to be honest, I had no idea who Jacob Trieber was and for my edification my staff produced 56 pages of reading material [on Trieber].

Crawford added, “As the senator indicated, certainly he is the embodiment of the American dream as he escaped oppression in Prussia, coming to the United States, learning to speak English in the barter system – what a phenomenal individual he was.”

Crawford continued,  “[Trieber] was very much loved in this community and throughout the state and without getting into a political commentary, he was commonly called, “Our Jake” by The Helena World.”