Statue of Richard Etheridge in Manteo.

Statue of Richard Etheridge in Manteo.

There are very few people as heroic as Lifesaving Station Keeper Ricard Etheridge. Born into slavery to the Manteo Etheridge, he was taught read and write. When the Civil War came, he fled his enslavement and joined the Union cause, rising to the equivalent of a master sergeant in his battalion.

When he returned to Roanoke Island after the war, he was planning on earning a living at odd jobs and fishing, but the fledgling Lifesaving Service needed his skills and in 1877 he joined the service.

However, no Black man was allowed in a supervisory position, and even though he was recognized for his skill and leadership potential, he was not promoted…until 1880 when he was put in charge of the Pea Island Lifesaving Station in 1880.

Because no white man would serve with him, it was an all Black crew—and they were good. Very, very good.

A Heroic Rescue

Just how good his crew was, was proven on October 11, 1896 when the three-masted schooner Newman ran aground in a hurricane. It took 100 years, but the extraordinary bravery of Richard Etheridge and his crew that evening was finally recognized when they were awarded the US Coast Guard Gold Lifesaving Medal, the highest medal awarded by the Coast Guard for heroism during a rescue.

To keep his memory alive, the new COA building will have a Richard Etheridge Lobby in the new building. The naming of the lobby is at the request of an anonymous donor to the Dare County COA capital building fund.

The College of the Albemarle is currently construction a new campus building in Manteo. The building is being funded in large part by Dare County.

The Outer Banks has a rich and wonderful history. Stay with us at Brindley Beach Vacations for a week or two and explore stories older than the first European visitor.