Anniversary celebration set for Edmund Pettus Bridge

Published 11:03 pm Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The city of Selma has celebrated its fair share of anniversaries this year, but there is one that hasn’t been celebrated yet — the diamond anniversary of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The historic bridge, which has been the center of controversy over the last week, turned 75 years old in May.

The Edmund Pettus Bridge was opened in May of 1940, where the bridge took the place of its wooden predecessor.

Selma councilwoman Susan Keith, along with other council members, is planning a birthday celebration for the bridge.

Keith announced the celebration during Tuesday’s city council meeting for June 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the Songs of Selma Park at the foot of the bridge on the Selma side.

Keith said she wanted to celebrate the bridge because of how much it means to so many people in Selma and across the world and what it stands for.

The details of the birthday celebration were not released, but Keith did say she wanted the event to be about the bridge itself.

With recent talks of renaming the bridge to the Journey to Freedom Bridge, Keith said she wanted the day to be solely about the bridge and not any of the controversy that was sparked after the Alabama Senate voted for a resolution to rename the bridge last week.

The resolution, which was sponsored by Sen. Hank Sanders, made it to the House of Representatives, but it was not voted on, essentially killing it.

Sanders said people wanted the bridge renamed because Edmund Pettus was a grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, according to some historians.

The Edmund Pettus Bridge became a symbol of the civil rights movement in 1965 after marchers were brutally beaten by Dallas County Sheriff Jim Clark’s deputies and Alabama State Troopers on a day that became known as Bloody Sunday.

More than 100,000 people made the trip to Selma the weekend of the 50th anniversary in March to see President Barack Obama speak at the foot of the bridge and to make the annual march across it to pay homage to those that did in 1965.

Councilwoman Bennie Ruth Crenshaw said she wanted the history of the bridge and who Edmund Pettus was to be told, but Keith, along with councilman Cecil Williamson, agreed to shy away from the controversy during the celebration.