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County and district officials gathered on Monday for a ceremony to dedicate the newly renamed Clyde L. Banks, Sr. Memorial Bridge on 29 Business entering the Town of Chatham. The Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors and the Commonwealth Transportation Board agreed that Banks, a well-respected education leader and Civil Rights activist in the community who died in 2008, was worthy of this recognition.
"Mr. Clyde L. Banks, Sr. was a very conscientious member of our community. He was a business man, a vocal civil rights leader, an advocate of equal pay for African-American teachers, a proponent for equal education,” said Dr. Charles H. Miller, Banister District Representative on the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. “We can all agree that the work Clyde L. Banks Sr. did in advocating for the integration of our schools, equal pay for black and white teachers, and generally fighting for Civil Rights, deserves to be recognized and honored. Both the Board of Supervisors and the Commonwealth Transportation Board have shown their respect, appreciation, and admiration for Mr. Banks and the entire African-American community with this newly renamed bridge. I also honor Board Chairman, Warren, Vice-Chairmen, Scearce, and the full Board, Misters Davis, Dudley, Farmer, and Ingram, who agreed and accepted the recommendation and for voting unanimously for what is being done today. This is, indeed, a historical day.”
"It was a great joy to join my colleagues today in honoring a great Civil Rights leader of Pittsylvania County," said Bob Warren, Chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. "With the formal renaming of the Chatham South Bridge as the Clyde L. Banks, Sr. Memorial Bridge, we are pleased that Mr. Banks and his legacy will be permanently honored in a high visibility area. I believe that naming this particular bridge - which is the only entrance from the South of Chatham and a main thoroughfare for many - after the late Mr. Banks was the best way to honor the memory of Mr. Banks and permanently memorialize the long-lasting impact he made on this community. The commitment that Mr. Banks demonstrated to our community and to equality for all did not deserve to be honored half-heartedly or in a low-traffic area, which is why this Board of Supervisors elected to rename this particular bridge in his honor. I applaud my colleagues on the Board on their vote to permanently rename this bridge after such an influential, consequential man in Mr. Banks."
A Chatham Native, Banks, operated the Travelers Inn in Chatham for nearly 40 years. During the Civil Rights movement, Banks was jailed during a sit-in in Danville, helped many African-Americans find work, lobbied to get black people hired as Sheriff's Deputies, and fought to ingrate schools and secure equal salaries for black and white teachers. Banks was also very active in the Pittsylvania County branch of the NAACP, serving as its president for many years. He is also a veteran of the United States Navy.
The Board of Supervisors passed a resolution during its January meeting in support of renaming the bridge, and the Commonwealth Transportation Board - the authority in Virginia with the power to rename roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure - approved the change several months later.
Many members of the Banks family, most of whom were travelling from out of town, attended the ceremony. Clyde Banks Jr. also spoke at the ceremony and received a copy of the bridge sign.
"From the family, we appreciate this," said Clyde Banks, Jr. who spoke at the ceremony. "If my dad were here, he wouldn't want any of this, but at this point in time I think he would appreciate the outreach and outpouring of love from the community."
Many other community members attended and spoke during Monday's ceremony, including NAACP leaders, Pittsylvania County and regional officials, and friends of the late Mr. Banks.
In April the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution in support of renaming the 29 Business North bridge in Blairs the "William H. Pritchett Memorial Bridge" after the late Mr. Pritchett, who was the first black supervisor in Pittsylvania County and the first elected official for the Banister District. This bridge will be dedicated in the coming months.