Civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis honored by Dover NJ bridge

DOVER – Mayor Carolyn Blackman grew up in a family of 12 in the south and was inspired by the teachings of many leaders, including civil rights icon John Lewis.

“I’m a country girl from Virginia,” Blackman said Tuesday as she unveiled a plaque dedicated to the new bridge on the corner of East Blackwell and Salem Streets in memory of Lewis, the late US Congressman. “I’ve had a lot to do with what John Lewis went through.”

Flanked by commissioners, lawmakers, and other dignitaries from Morris County, Blackman recalled a time and place that inspired Lewis, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and others to start the civil rights movement. “”

Dover Mayor Carolyn Blackman inaugurates the new bridge at the junction of East Blackwell and Salem Streets to the late congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis.  May 12, 2021

“We had different bathrooms. We had to get on the back of the bus,” said Blackman.

By dedicating the bridge to Lewis, “we will bring our city of Dover to the front lines,” she said.

Blackman, a Democrat and the first black and female Mayor of Dover, received support from the GOP lawmakers and commissioners who attended the event.

“It’s so fitting because a bridge connects two sides,” said Senator Anthony Bucco, who represents Dover in New Jersey’s 25th district. “Congressman Lewis, through his work as a civil rights activist, bridged the racial gap and brought people together. He gave them a sense of hope for the future of what this bridge will do from now and into the long future.”

District 25 MP Aura Dunn said, “Let’s keep up with the good troubles.”

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Stephen Shaw, commissioner for the Morris County Commissioner, read Lewis’ words on the plaque and said they were “very appropriate” for the present day and the pandemic challenges that remain.

Dover Mayor Carolyn Blackman inaugurates the new bridge at the junction of East Blackwell and Salem Streets to the late congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis.  May 12, 2021

“Be hopeful, be optimistic, never lose that sense of hope,” he read.

Shaw also stated that the inauguration of the bridge was approved by the commissioners by order of Dover’s request. Commissioners oversee all bridge maintenance in the county, including the $ 1.85 million project to replace East Blackwell Street across the Rockaway River.

Installed in 1982, the bridge handles more than 18,000 vehicles a day, and the structure has been classified as in poor condition. The substructure was intact, said contractors.

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Construction began in January 2020 and was completed ahead of schedule in November, but the bitterly cold weather and continued need for social distancing caused city officials to postpone the inauguration for spring.

“That bridge, when we cut the ribbon, was known as bridge # 1401-015, which is a really catchy name,” Shaw said. “Some people called it the East Blackwell Street Bridge.”

Now it’s the John Robert Lewis Bridge.

Lewis died in July at the age of 80. As the organizer of the historic 1963 Civil Rights March in Washington, DC, Lewis was elected to Congress in 1986 and served 17 terms before his death. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2011.

“I hope that in years, when people cross this bridge and see the sign, google John Lewis and learn about his legacy,” said Blackman.

William Westhoven is a local reporter for For full access to the most important news from your local community, subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: [email protected] Twitter: @wwesthoven

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