Rating:
8 votes

Edmund Pettus Bridge

Photos 

Overview

The Edmund Pettus Bridge, perhaps, is the most famous (or infamous) bridge in Alabama history to this day. The bridge is the site of the historic civil rights conflicts known as the Selma to Montgomery Marches and "Bloody Sunday."

Photo taken by James McCray

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BH Photo #125729

Map 

Street View 

Facts 

Overview
Steel through arch bridge over Alabama River on US 80 in Selma
Location
Selma, Dallas County, Alabama
Status
Open to traffic
History
Built 1940
Builder
- Hensen K. Stevenson (Design)
Design
Steel through arch
Dimensions
Length of largest span: 250.0 ft.
Total length: 1,248.1 ft.
Deck width: 42.3 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 15.3 ft.
Recognition
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on February 27, 2013
Approximate latitude, longitude
+32.40547, -87.01864   (decimal degrees)
32°24'20" N, 87°01'07" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/498247/3585380 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Selma
Inventory numbers
AL 2273 (Alabama bridge number)
NRHP 13000281 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 10106 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection (as of 01/2015)
Deck condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Superstructure condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Appraisal: Functionally obsolete
Sufficiency rating: 36.8 (out of 100)
Average daily traffic (as of 2013)
13,920

Update Log 

  • March 9, 2015: Updated by Nathan Holth: Added designer.
  • July 16, 2011: New photos from Ben Tate
  • October 12, 2008: New photos from James McCray

Sources 

Comments 

Edmund Pettus Bridge
Posted May 30, 2016, by Mark Hilton (cacher [at] mail [dot] com)

Two photos related to the bridge. One is plaque showing the bridge designer. The other historical marker photo notes what happened on 'Bloody Sunday'.

Edmund Pettus Bridge
Posted March 10, 2015, by Al Bertram (abertram8297 [dot] com [at] hotmail [dot] com)

I read a story on the BBC news site a couple of days ago http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-31736316 where some group is circulating a petition to get the name of the bridge changed. However, the city leaders in Selma are not in favor of it and prefer to keep the name as it is so that present and future generations understand the significance of what happened there in 1965.

Edmund Pettus Bridge
Posted March 9, 2015, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)
Edmund Pettus Bridge
Posted March 9, 2015, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Boy I wish I had been able to visit this bridge during my SE USA last November. The hits to my website would have likely been huge with the nonstop television coverage... I see its the most-visited bridge on BridgeHunter yesterday.

Regarding the name, here is an interesting perspective. As a bridge that (although it has considerable engineering significance as a unique steel arch bridge) this bridge is undoubtedly most significant under NRHP Criterion A (Significant Events in History), specifically the Selma March. In 2013, the bridge was even raised to the highest and rarest historic designation available for a bridge, that of a National Historic Landmark. Regardless of what you think of the name, consider that this bridge has amazingly been nearly completely unaltered from its appearance during this significant event in history. Look at the historical imagery from the march. The bridge (for better or worse, with that name above) looks the same as it did during the march. If you were to change the name of the bridge (and thereby the name mounted on the bridge) that would break the museum-like preservation the bridge currently enjoys. Perhaps a better solution is to install interpretive signage beside the bridge that explains the irony of the name.

Edmund Pettus Bridge
Posted March 8, 2015, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Patrick,

I see where you are coming from but the fact that the name raised your ire to the level that you were willing to think about it and write about it speaks volumes. To me, changing the name removes that thorn and the teaching moment. It sweeps it under the rug. By leaving the name it ensures people will not forget.

Maybe I'm idealistic in that way but to me the fact that the first march was stopped at the bridge and the second 'broke through' has tremendous symbolism.

Its interesting that we are discussing opposite courses of action yet agree on the reason/basis.

Regards,

Art S.

Edmund Pettus Bridge
Posted March 8, 2015, by Patrick Feller (nakrnsm [at] aol [dot] com)

Yours can be a compelling point, ArtS, and I've at times been tempted by it, but history, and progress, are about more than irony and poignancy, in a moment, every fifty years.

Days, weeks and months from now, when people ask about the Pettus bridge, they will be told who it was named after. The ironic moment, the poignant one, will be less remembered and the honor given a vile scoundrel who exerted effort all his life to keep people enslaved and then to keep them from ever exercising their rights will remain memorialized, in large letters, on that bridge.

In school districts throughout the south, children are being educated at schools named during Jim Crow after scoundrels like Pettus and Nathan Bedford Forrest who worked hard and proudly to keep those students' ancestors under thumb or boot.

Progress is also about relegating the scoundrels to the pages of history and honoring, memorializing, those who struggled, who were beaten, and who died for the rights of all of us.

Edmund Pettus Bridge
Posted March 8, 2015, by ArtS (asuckkewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Patrick, there is a strong push to change the name. To me, the irony of the name combined with the bridge's significance to our history is important. In my opinion, changing the name strips a part of its history and reduces its poignancy.

Edmund Pettus Bridge
Posted March 7, 2015, by Patrick Feller (nakrnsm [at] aol [dot] com)

Today's an important anniversary for this bridge, sadly still stuck with the name of a Klansman.