New bridge dedicated to OBX hero Capt. Richard Etheridge

By on February 21, 2018

Members of the Coast Guard and Pea Island Preservation Society at the dedication. (Sam Walker)

Bridge dedications can at times be mundane, with the usual dry speeches, a ribbon cutting or sign unveiling and a photo opportunity.

But that was not the case Tuesday on Hatteras Island, as the dedication of the Capt. Richard Etheridge Bridge was not only educational, it was inspirational, and at times emotional, for those in attendance.

Local and state officials gathered before a standing-room-only crowd in the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Building to speak about the significance of the concrete bridge over the breach of Pea Island by Hurricane Irene in 2011.

And they remarked on the even more significant namesake of the span, the first African-American keeper of a U.S. Life-Saving Service station more than a century ago.

Etheridge was born a slave in 1842 and served in the Civil War for the Union Army at a key battle outside Richmond.

He then returned home to Dare County and eventually ascended to keeper of the Pea Island Life-Saving Station, crewed by an all African-American unit that was credited with saving countless lives, that once stood not far from the bridge that now carries his name.

“It’s fitting that, even though it’s been more than a century since his most heroic moment, Capt. Richard Etheridge will continue to play a role in keeping people safe along this stretch of coastline,” said N.C. Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon.

The U.S. Coast Guard posthumously awarded Etheridge and his crew the Gold Lifesaving Medal for the heroic rescue of those on board the E.S. Newman during a hurricane in 1896. A Coast Guard cutter is also named in Etheridge’s honor.

The Pea Island Preservation Society presented their “Freedmen, Surfmen and Heroes,” which has been performed for Dare County school students and other groups chronicling Etheridge’s life story.

Two of the presenters, Joan Collins and society President Darrell Collins, have ties to Etheridge and are descendants of Pea Island crew members.

Part of the presentation retold the story of the Newman rescue, and interpreters James Charlet and Linda Malloy brought the story of the heroic efforts of Etheridge and the surfmen in his charge to life.

​​​​​​​The bridge, formerly known as the Pea Island Interim Bridge, was completed last year to replace a temporary metal bridge built and open to traffic just six weeks after Hurricane Irene’s soundside storm surge slice through Pea Island.

The Atlantic Ocean and Pamlico Sound were connected by a 200-yard-wide, 6- to 8-foot deep channel one month later, but the cut has since naturally healed itself, just like New Inlet did decades ago just to the south.

“Thank you to the family members for lending us that name,” said Dare County Manager Bobby Outten. “And thank you, NCDOT, for putting that bridge in for us.”

Efforts to name the bridge for Etheridge were first spearheaded by former state transportation board member Malcolm Fearing of Manteo, then got a huge boost from a group of Kitty Hawk elementary school students who embarked on a letter-writing campaign.

“I can’t think of a more appropriate way to honor Black History Month than to name this bridge the Capt. Richard Etheridge Bridge,” said Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Robert Woodard. “I hope every Outer Banks resident that crosses this bridge thinks about his legacy and shares his story with everyone in their vehicle.”

Watch the full ceremony via Facebook Live:

Dare County Animal Shelter

Sealed bids for completion of the Dare County Animal Shelter will be received on February 11, 2020, in Dare County Administration Building, 954 Marshall C. Collins Drive, Manteo, NC, for 01-Fencing, 03- Concrete, 04-Masonry, 05-Metals/ Steel, 06-Casework, 07-Roofing, 07-Caulking, 08-Glass and Glazing, 08-Doors, Frames and Hardware, 08-Overhead Doors, 09-Drywall, 09-Flooring, 09-Painting, 10- Specialties, 12- Furnishings, 21-Fire Protection, 23-Mechanical & Plumbing, 26-Electrical, 31-Sitework and 32-Landscaping.

This project will be bid and awarded in accordance with North Carolina law. Sealed proposals from Contractors will be received until 1:00 p.m. All bidders must submit for prequalification by 2:00pm on 1/24/2020. Bids submitted by non-prequalified bidders will not be considered. All bids will be opened and read aloud starting at 2:00 p.m. of the bid day. Bids must be delivered in person and on the supplied Bid Form and include a bid deposit worth 5% of the total bid value. Electronic and faxed bids will NOT be accepted or reviewed. All times are local prevailing times.

Information requests concerning the project shall be submitted in writing to: Alex Palagyi of The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company via email (

Bidding material, prequalification material, and complete plans and specifications may be obtained from theWhiting-Turner Building Connected site and will be available until the bid due date. All subcontractors are responsible for emailing Alex Palagyi (alex.palagyi@ for access to the Building Connected site.

The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company and Dare County reserve the right to reject any and all bids, waive informalities and irregularities in bidding, and to accept bids which are considered to be in the best interest of the County. The Whiting Turner Contracting Company and Dare County also reserve the right to require any bidder to submit information needed to determine if said bidder is responsible within the meaning of N.C. Gen. Stat. 143-129.


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See what people are saying:

  • rayzdoc

    To say that this is a fitting and well-deserved honor just doesn’t seem enough!! After viewing “Rescue Men” my respect of these African American heroes took in a while new respect!

    Wednesday, Feb 21 @ 8:54 pm