As the nation mourns the death of Congressman John Lewis, the local area has an interesting connection to the civil rights icon.
On March 7, 1965, Lewis was among the peaceful demonstrators that were attacked and beaten by police as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama during a march for black voter rights. The incident became known as “Black Sunday.”
Marty Tschetter is the Local History Librarian at the Wayne County Public Library. He says the Edmund Pettus Bridge was actually constructed by the T.A. Loving Company of Goldsboro and it opened to traffic in 1940. T.A. Loving undertook numerous bridge projects such as this during this time. This was as the U.S. was still coming out of the Great Depression, but Tschetter does not know if the bridge construction was made possible through any federal funding at that time.
The bridge is named for Edmund Pettus, a U.S. Senator from Alabama who was also a state-level leader of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. Tschetter reminds T.A. Loving Company had nothing to do with the naming of the bridge. The calls to rename the bridge after Rep. John Lewis are increasing following his death on July 17th.
This week, Lewis became the first Black lawmaker to lie in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.