For years, the Barham family owned and operated O.C. Barham Funeral Home. It's one of the largest and most well-known funeral homes in town. But the Barham's are no longer affiliated with that funeral home, although it bears their name. O.C. Barham Funeral Home is now owned by Service Corporation International (SCI), and the Barham's are now operating a new funeral home - the Robert Barham Family Funeral Home.

The opening of the new funeral home left a lot of people wondering - What in the heck happened? Well, here it is. O.C. Barham opened O.C. Barham Funeral Home in 1985. 12 years later, in 1997, he sold the funeral home to a company called Loewen Group. This company went bankrupt, and later reformed as Alderwoods Group. Alderwoods group then sold the funeral home to another company, SCI.

"We really thought it was a good move when we did it," said Bob Barham, O.C.'s son, who now owns Robert Barham Family Funeral Home.

But after spending some time running O.C. Barham Funeral Home under large companies, the family began to feel that what had seemed like such a good idea, wasn't turning out so nicely after all.

"We didn't share the same philosophy with SCI," said Bob, who said that he felt he was unable to spend enough time with families in order to create reports for the corporation, and added that working under corporations that were free to buy and sell the funeral home, "made us feel uneasy about our future. We didn't know what was going to happen."

At that point, Bob Barham began talking with SCI about buying back the home, but SCI was unwilling to sell at the price that was offered.

Bob parted ways with SCI, and soon afterward, he said, O.C. Barham, Bill Barham, and B.J. Barham were let go as well.

After parting with SCI, the Barham's decided to open their own funeral home again. They are now the Robert Barham Family Funeral Home, and are operating out of a temporary location - the former site of Tommy's Seafood Restaurant on Highway 39 - while their new funeral home is under construction.

SCI was not happy about the Barham's decision to open a new funeral home under the Barham name, and are now suing them in federal court over the matter.

Bob said the family does not plan to settle out-of-court, saying, "We feel we should be allowed to use our name," Bob said, "the public should know that the Barham family is not still up there (at O.C. Barham Funeral Home)."

Should they lose the case, he said, they will change their name and continue to operate the funeral home as usual.

Keith Brown, manager of O.C. Barham Funeral Home, said he was not at liberty to comment on the lawsuit, but did say, "O.C. Barham Funeral Home has been in business for many years servicing the families of Meridian. It has been a privilege to do so, and we will continue to do so."

The business philosophy of Robert Barham Family Funeral Home is simple, Bob said. "To treat families the way you would want to be treated," adding, "and we also believe in being reasonable in our pricing."

Bob said the new funeral home will honor all pre-arrangements "even if you bought your funeral back in 1985," and that a little under half of the funeral home's cases since its opening on March 14 have been pre-arrangements from the O.C. Barham Funeral Home.

Business at the new funeral home, he said, has been going well.

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