The Final Call Online Edition



WEB POSTED 05-07-2002




Landowners declare victory in Nissan war

JACKSON, Miss. (NNPA)—A 14-month battle that has been tinged with charges of racism and discrimination over land wanted for the $930 million Nissan project is over.

Five Black families recently declared victory over the state of Mississippi and Nissan’s failed efforts to take their property through eminent domain. The families’ ordeal and their fight with Nissan and state officials were chronicled last fall in a three-part series produced under the NNPA’s NorthStar Investigative Reporting Program.

The state reached settlement agreements with three of the five families—the Bouldins and Smiths.

However, Andrew Archie, Jr., and Lonzo and Matilda Archie got to keep their homes and 24-acres of land.

"We are pleased with the resolution of this matter,’’ said Robert J. Rohrlack, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA ).

Mr. Rohrlack said the state will immediately move to dismiss pending lawsuits against the Archie families. Nissan will now redesign and reengineer around the Archies’ property, he said.

After weeks of intense, secretive negotiations, Percy Lee and Minnie Pearl Bouldin, as well as John, and his son Edward Charles Smith, reluctantly allowed the state to acquire their property.

The Bouldins own three acres and have lived for months next door to a gigantic water tower placed by Nissan and the state within 200 feet of their front door.

Attorneys for the Bouldins and officials of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said they advised the Bouldins and the Smiths to accept the settlement offers.

"The Bouldins have endured enough,’’ stated Stephanie Parker-Weaver, SCLC executive secretary.

‘’They are elderly and in poor health, and we didn’t want to risk their health any longer just to prove a point—once the state basically threw in the towel on the eminent domain abuse issues. Now, these families can live out the rest of their lives in comfort and leave a legacy," she said.

The Smiths were represented by Attorney James E. Ross, Jr., of Monroe, La.

Atty. Ross also represented the Archies and Bouldins on the bad-faith negotiation issues.

‘’My clients have finally received a fair settlement that provides a win-win situation for all parties involved,’’ said Mr. Ross. "We are very pleased.’’

Scott Bullock, senior attorney at the Institute for Justice in Washington, D.C., a conservative non-profit, public interest law firm that represented the Archie and Bouldin families on the constitutional issues, was "absolutely thrilled’’ with the conclusion of the land wars saga.

"Eminent domain is gone and the Archies get to keep the homes and land they know and love so well. It’s a great day for these families and for the Constitution,’’ he added.

The Archies said the ending was exactly as they had prayed it would be.

"I just thank the living God and all the people who stood with us for so long,’’ said Matilda Archie.

"We couldn’t have gotten this far without the help of Mr. (Charles) Tisdale telling us about Stephanie and the SCLC. Ms. Parker-Weaver stood with us every step of the way.

"We then got two lawyers, Attorney Ross and Bullock, who wouldn’t and didn’t sell us out. We are also so grateful to the State Supreme Court for giving us a stay when they did,’’ said Ms. Archie. "We are ecstatic that it is finally over and we get to keep our homes and land.’’

Lonzo Archie said that his father, Andrew, 69, had been ill, but is in great spirits. The landowners and supporters celebrated last at Freelon’s, a local restaurant.

"When he got the news, that’s the first time I’ve seen a smile on his face in awhile,’’ said Lonzo Archie. "Everybody’s happy now.’’

Also, a three-judge panel of State Supreme Court judges denied the state’s motion to dismiss the appeal filed by the Archie and Bouldin families.

"After due consideration, the panel finds that the motion to dismiss should be denied,’’ wrote Justice William L. Waller, Jr., for the panel also consisting of Justices Jim Smith and Chuck Easley.

Supporters of the Archies and Bouldins said that the state Supreme Court justices actions may have been the proverbial nail in the eminent domain abuse coffin.

—Carolyn Stephens Maxwell, Jackson Advocate

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