Behind The Golden Doors

This one is for Heather and Nancy, with love …

And now let me tell you about an IMPORTANT story that was shoved into near obscurity by these trivial Duck Bigots, because it is a very personal story to me. Let me tell you about the Golden Doors …

New Mexico Supreme Court - postcard from the 1950s

The building itself, we are told was built during the Depression, by FDR:

FDR Library’s List of New Deal Projects – Part 3: Michigan through New York
Santa Fe Supreme Court Building


 Santa Fe Supreme Court Building


 Supreme Court

Street Address

237 Don Gaspar Avenue


Santa Fe


Santa Fe


New Mexico

Zip Code


New Deal Agency

Public Works Administration

Year of Completion



C.W. Short and R. Stanley-Brown. “Public Buildings: Architecture Under the Public Works Administration 1933 To 1939” (U.S. Government Printing Office Washington: 1939), 64

Still Exists 


Still Exists – Source

But the thing that always struck me was this:

Supreme Court Bldg 001

The Golden Doors of the New Mexico State Supreme Court

Those massive golden doors. What lies beyond them, I can tell you my version of. Your version is up to you.

The hit single (at least locally, because it had been shot in town the previous summer) on AM radio, KVSF, was “One Tin Soldier” (the Coven version, NOT “The Original Caste” version) from Tom Laughlin’s then-current film “Billy Jack.” Several of the long-haired extras — OK, a good number — went to Santa Fe High that year.

bye bye biilly2

Watch/listen on YouTube(seriously, it’s worth it, if just for the old Northern New Mexico culture and sites).

“Go ahead and hate your neighbor, Go ahead and cheat a friend. Do it in the name of Heaven, You can justify it in the end….

I had taken the dreaded “Speech” and found that I liked debate and had joined the debate team. And, I volunteered to research some aspect of jury trials (the national topic that year) at the Supreme Court law library.  Pat Lopez told me where it was, and I borrowed the station wagon, told my parents where I was going, and noted that I might be back late.

santa fe high school 1970

Brand new Santa Fe High School, w/ dirt parking lots, 1970

I drove down, found after hours parking on the street and walked to the right building.  And what I saw were those two massive golden doors, with eight zias (the sun symbol of the Zuni, swiped for the New Mexico State symbol) of four each on either side. And that is how you got in.


Even at a non-metaphorical level, it is an experience and unforgettable. The Depression-era architects had done their jobs well using the rise of the hill and the slight rise of the walk, those golden doors just overawed you as they slowly dwarfed and then engulfed you.

 Inside, the law library was (and was again in the late 80’s early 90’s) open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.


And I was in a library. For the next several hours, I immersed myself in it, and tortuously xeroxed slick thermofax-papery photocopies from the PRICEY copier. Usually, copy machines cost a nickel a page. This wanted dimes. So, to get as much value as possible I copied legal size and stuck other pages in for maximum value. Still, it cost me a couple of bucks, and on a high school salary that was significant.

But the building itself, and the law library were depression-era gems. That attention to detail, the tilework in the lavatories, the amazing little design bits, and a central atrium — it was, to my library connoisseur’s eye, a treasure. And I lost myself in it.



And, thus, when I returned from my magical sojourn into law, and debate and what I’d ultimately be doing for the rest of my life — researching — it was after midnight.

My parents were WAITING for me. You know, the sort of “American Gothic” in underwear and crossed arms and basilisk’s glare.

“WHERE. WERE. YOU” the prosecution began.

I told them what I told you. More or less:

the atrium

The central “atrium” in the New Mexico Law Library

In that building with the Golden Doors.

  • 1937: Supreme Court Building construction completed at a cost of $307,000.
  • The Building remains the only Public Works Administration project in New Mexico that is still being used for the original purpose for which it was built. (from the New Mexico Supreme Court website)

Thence, the first proposition was laid out before me: NO FIFTEEN YEAR OLD BOY STAYS OUT PAST MIDNIGHT AT A LIBRARY!


Now, I know the big fight scene was filmed on the Plaza at
Las Vegas
New Mex., but that looks like the federal building in Santa Fe,
the two slightly different style wings spot-welded together;
which is
where I registered for the draft when I turned sixteen.

Now, clearly, THIS one did.

But, in that weird projection thing that Mother liked to do, the truth was unacceptable and thence would come the battle until I agreed to say whatever fantasy had run through her former borderline-juvenile-delinquent’s mind and thus validate her hypothesis … nay, immutable theory. You know, like Evolution.

  • WPA used the same style of striker plate in all of their projects. The only difference is in the circular portion where ours has a zia sun symbol and the Empire Building, for example, has the New York state flower in it.
  • WPA artisans were commissioned to create the unique chandeliers and window leading in the S.Ct. Courtroom. All of the woodwork is hand carved especially for this courtroom. With the exception of the carpeting and draperies, the courtroom looks today just as it did in the 1930’s.
  • Cork flooring was used in the 30’s for the law library and the s.ct. courtroom. Over the years, damage to the flooring has occurred from women’s high heel marks. (ibid.)

Except Evolution is a “theory,” like “gravity” that explains massive amounts of data and is borne out in experimental and observed evidence.

Mom, on the other hand, hallucinated her immutable facts, and this night’s was NO FIFTEEN YEAR OLD BOY STAYS OUT PAST MIDNIGHT AT A LIBRARY!

billyjack goesforhis gun

I will not go into the physical and mental abuse and sleep deprivation, haranguing, good cop/bad cop BS that was involved, but, having passed my fifteenth birthday (I’d have my 16th in Hobbes, New Mexico, at a debate tournament, but that’s getting ahead of the story), I had decided that I wasn’t going to put up with lying any more. Appeasement clearly hadn’t worked in the previous fourteen years.

I had been at the effing law library and I was not going to lie about it.

(And if ANYONE on the face of the planet ought to have known my love of libraries, it OUGHT to have been my parents.  How little they knew me, as it has turned out.)

In that building with the Golden Doors.

NM golden doors

They could hit me, they could hate me, they could punish me, accuse me, interrogate me, engage in audience response litanies, even repeat old clichés — even THREE times, a then-record — but I would not bend, nor would I break. And they did. We knocked off about 3 am.

the trial of billyjack

Movie did well enough for two sequels

More because THEY couldn’t stay awake than because I was willing to budge. As my birth father recalled, unprompted: “You were always just about the stubbornest kid I ever saw.” I was then fifty years old. I’m still stubborn.

I was in that building with the Golden Doors.

them golden doors

I had not yet learned about child predation, nor about homosexuality*.

[See: “A Grant from the Past to the Present” and “The Story of a Child Predator” which not only took place in Santa Fe slightly after this time, but are intrinsic to this post …]

But I had learned where the Supreme Court law library was, and, in the ’90s, when I was writing for the Santa Fe Sun, I was happy to find that the hours were the same, and, the xeroxing having stayed the same, it was now a bargain, and I photocopied onto letter size paper.

(Sadly, no more: “Library Hours Monday-Friday 8:00-5:00″)

'Billy Jack' extras show solidarity

‘Billy Jack’ extras show solidarity

I had also learned, without realizing it, about the strange, arbitrary and often capricious behavior of “law” — and of “social justice” — in miniature with the parents, but I wouldn’t understand that for a long time yet. And, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’

Now, THIS WEEK, on Thursday, December 19th,  this emergesfrom those Golden Doors:

We conclude that although none of New Mexico’s marriage statutes specifically prohibit same-gender marriages, when read as a whole, the statutes have the effect of precluding same-gender couples from marrying and benefitting from the rights, protections, and responsibilities that flow from a civil marriage. Same-gender couples who wish to enter into a civil marriage with another person of their choice and to the exclusion of all others are similarly situated to opposite-gender couples who want to do the same, yet they are treated differently. Because same-gender couples (whether lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, hereinafter “LGBT”) are a discrete group which has been subjected to a history of discrimination and violence, and which has inadequate political power to protect itself from such treatment, the classification at issue must withstand intermediate scrutiny to be constitutional. Accordingly, New Mexico may neither constitutionally deny same-gender couples the right to marry nor deprive them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of marriage laws

We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law.

Griego v. Oliver Filing Date: December 19, 2013 Docket No. 34,306

I know people in New Mexico affected by this. And I welcome this decision in their lives.

Amazing and wonderful things sometimes emerge from behind those golden doors. Alpha and omega.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

~ poem engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside
   the lower level of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.


Zia/New Mexico flag


 Mr. Williams has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.

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About Hart Williams

Mr. Williams grew up in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and New Mexico. He lived in Hollywood, California for many years. He has been published in The Washington Post, The Kansas City Star, The Santa Fe Sun, The Los Angeles Free Press, Oui Magazine, New West, and many, many more. A published novelist and a filmed screenwriter, Mr. Williams eschews the decadence of Hollywood for the simple, wholesome goodness of the plain, honest people of the land. He enjoys Luis Buñuel documentaries immensely.
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