By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Tupelo’s FBI office is nearly closed, with federal belt-tightening the culprit.
Its consolidation with the larger Oxford office also brings into question the future of its old home, the multi-story federal building at 500 W. Main St.
Chris Gallegos, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, said a Tuesday discussion between Cochran’s staff and a U.S. Postal Service official concluded that cost-savings could result from consolidation of Main Street with the South Thomas Street facility, although “no changes are planned” in that direction.
Tupelo Realtor Tommy Morgan, who manages the property through TM of Tupelo LLC, said he’s known about the FBI’s impending departure since March but that the USPS contract is still in effect.
“It looks like they’re combining offices,” Morgan said about the FBI, noting he’s heard speculation that the Oxford office could close, too, for the ultimate downsize to FBI facilities in Jackson and Gulfport.
Tuesday, FBI spokesman Deborah Madden said Greenville and Tupelo offices are consolidating into Oxford with the two resident agents already supervised out of Oxford to cover the state’s northern district.
“The consolidation,” she said, “will not affect the number of FBI resources in the northern part of the state, within the state of Mississippi or in the FBI Jackson Division.”
She did not respond to questions about other possible FBI closings.
Earlier this week, staffers in Calvary Baptist Church’s temporary offices on the same floor as the FBI said they expected the FBI to be gone from the premises before they move into newly renovated facilities by the end of August.
No one responded to loud knocking on the FBI’s second floor office door.
On its website, the FBI’s Jackson office lists eight field offices: Columbus, Greenville, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Meridian, Oxford, Pascagoula and Southaven.
Greenville’s phone is disconnected but machines answer everywhere except Jackson, Oxford and Gulfport. Columbus’ machine is so full it can’t accept any more messages.
All emergency calls are directed to Jackson at (601) 948-5000.
A call Tuesday from a message left with the Hattiesburg office shows it still is open, with questions about its future referred to Madden.
Mississippi’s FBI office in Jackson opened in May 1941 and closed in 1946, with New Orleans and Memphis personnel handling cases.
But during the early 1960s with the rise of racial tensions and violence, President Lyndon Johnson told FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to establish a stronger official presence in Mississippi.
On July 10, 1964, Hoover personally re-opened the Jackson Division to demonstrate commitment to civil rights and other investigations in the state, the FBI’s history tells.
Tupelo’s office opened six months later in response to Ku Klux Klan activity in Northeast Mississippi, said John Castles, who came to the region to work.
As for the future of the West Main Street facility the FBI is vacating, Mayor Jack Reed Jr. said Tuesday he hasn’t received any official notice about any changes by the U.S. Postal Service.