In 2006, more than 1,000 gathered, chanting “Bring it home” in hopes of convincing those with the decision making powers to choose Fort Smith as the home of the U.S. Marshals Museum. On Tuesday (Sept. 24), a crowd of almost that many cheered as Donald Washington, director of the Marshals Service, spoke into the mic, “We are home.”
Tuesday was also the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service.
The rain did not keep the crowds away from the dedication of the U.S. Marshals Museum Samuel (USMM) M. Sicard Hall of Honor and the Mary Carleton and Robert A. Young III Building Dedication on Tuesday (Sept. 24). Hundreds pressed into the lobby to get their first glimpse of the museum, which is more than 80% completed, said Doug Babb, USMM board chairman.
“Many, many people have put shoulder to plow so we can dedicate this museum today,” said Fort Smith Mayor George McGill.
The Samuel M. Sicard Hall of Honor will be a permanent exhibit in the museum. In the 230-year history of the U.S. Marshals Service, 376 Marshals have died enforcing the nation’s laws, more of those serving out of the Western District of Arkansas than any other district.
“It will serve as a contemplative destination that acknowledges, with respectful gratitude, the U.S. Marshals who have lost their lives in the line of duty,” a media release on the event said.
“Here we are along the Arkansas River, legendary marshals in our presence …Here, the Samuel M. Sicard Hall of Honor will help protect the most sacred of those brave spirits of sacrifice who over the last 230 years have given more to the mission of justice than we can ever imagine,” Washington said.
Though the museum is not yet complete, CDI Contractors estimates the building will be completed later this fall. USMM President Patrick Weeks said officials are hopeful for a late 2020 grand opening for the museum. The museum still has an outstanding $15 million need in its capital campaign, $8 million of that is for the museum’s guest experience design and construction, said USMM Foundation President Alice Alt. Once open, the museum will have a great impact on the state, said Arkansas Lt. Governor Tim Griffin.
“As the presidential library in Little Rock has shown us, this will be a game changer not just for Fort Smith, not just for the region, but for the entire state. This is a museum with a national impact. It will bring an exponential economic boost with it,” Griffin said.
The museum will serve a multitude of purposes, including as an education center and an event hall, Griffin said.
“You know what that means don’t you? It means people spending money,” he said.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson lauded the museum’s education outreach, saying it will allow students throughout Oklahoma and Arkansas to learn in a unique personal way while reaching students throughout the country.
“The museum’s mission is to teach history, to recognize history and to recognize the importance of our rule of law to our justice system,” Hutchison said, praising U.S. deputy Marshals who serve the country in many ways.
Many of those deputy marshals, both active and retired, and their families as well as families of fallen marshals attended Tuesday’s festivities and had the opportunity to experience the interactive exhibits in the Hall of Honor following the dedication ceremonies. The museum is, after all, a tribute to them and the service, Washington said.
“If there is something tough that needs to be done, you want to call a deputy United States Marshal. … They are always there, silently guiding, sometimes from the front, sometimes from the back,” Washington said.