Unveiling the new naming plate for the Richard Etheridge Bridge.

It’s official—the new bridge at New Inlet on Pea Island is the Richard Etheridge Bridge.

The 1100’ span replaces that temporary bridge with the metal plates that had a speed limit and common sense slowing cars down to 25 mph. 

That old bridge is gone, already—quick work on the part of NCDOT. That type of bridge will probably go on to some other site that needs 600’ to span something right away.

For anyone who has experienced that prefabricated metal temporary bridge…well, we’ll just say the new span is wonderful. The pavement is smooth, and the bridge is very well engineered.

Naming the bridge for Richard Etheridge seems appropriate. 

He was born a slave on Roanoke Island in 1842, enlisted in the Union Army after gaining his freedom and came home after the war. He began working for the Lifesaving service and at a time when African-American service men were denied status, his work was so well received that an inspector for the Lifesaving Service wrote, in recommending him to command the Pea Island Lifesaving station.

The crew was made up exclusively or local African-Americans, and Etheridge garnered a reputation for drilling his men incessantly.

His leadership and their handwork paid huge dividends in the rescue of the schooner E.S. Newman on October 11, 1896.

One hundred years later, and much overdue, the crew was awarded a posthumous Gold lifesaving medal by the Coast Guard.

The Richard Etheridge Bridge is located very close to the site of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station.