June 2016

Helena Federal Building Renamed for Judge Trieber

On May 20, 2016, the Helena Federal Building was renamed in honor of Jacob Trieber, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas from 1900 to 1927.
Trieber was born in 1853 and immigrated with his parents to the United States at the age of 13. His parents hoped the “land of the free” would provide their son opportunities not extended to Jews in their native Prussia (now Germany). Trieber would become the first Jewish appointment to the federal bench in the United States and a beacon of light for the persecuted.
Judge Trieber was appointed at the height of segregation under Jim Crow laws, but his experience with ethnic prejudice gave him a more inclusive view. He stated in United States v. Morris.
In my opinion, Congress has the power, under the provisions of the thirteenth amendment, to protect citizens of the United States in the enjoyment of those rights which are fundamental and belong to every citizen, if the deprivation of these privileges is solely on account of his race or color, as a denial of such privileges is an element of servitude within the meaning of that amendment.
Judge Trieber’s interpretation of the Thirteenth Amendment was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1906 in Hodges v. U.S., a decision that “became the rod and staff of those who denied that the federal government had the authority to intervene in race relations.” Judge Trieber’s farsighted view was not adopted by the U.S. Supreme Court until 1968 in a landmark case that overturned Hodges.
Judge Trieber was honored at the Delta Cultural Center in Helena, Arkansas, on May 19, 2016. The event, entitled The Life of Judge Jacob Trieber, included Phillips County Arkansas District Judge Rusty Porter playing the role of Judge Trieber.
The dedication of the Jacob Trieber Federal Building was held the following day with Eastern District of Arkansas Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Miller presiding and Arkansas federal judges, state leaders, and Helena natives in attendance.
The U.S. Courts Library’s three-panel display commemorating Judge Trieber was on exhibit in the Little Rock library during these events.