Rep. James Clyburn wants Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge renamed after John Lewis

The bridge, named after a KKK grand wizard, is the site of the 1965 'Bloody Sunday' brutal beatings of Black protesters in Selma, Ala.

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) speaks to the crowd at the Edmund Pettus Bridge crossing reenactment marking 55th anniversary of Selma’s Bloody Sunday on March 1, 2020 in Selma, Alabama. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Year after year, Georgia Congressman John Lewis would gather community leaders and politicians at the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” protest in Selma, Ala., where demonstrators for voting rights, including Lewis, were brutally attacked by state troopers.

Lewis, one of the organizers behind the Selma to Montgomery march who died late Friday of pancreatic cancer, left the scene with a fractured skull after he and scores of peaceful protesters were the victims of state-sanctioned violence. The incident was a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement and galvanized the nation, leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In light of his passing, and his service as a civil rights icon and congressman for more than three decades, fellow Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) insists that the bridge be renamed after Lewis.

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Clyburn, House majority whip and Congressional Black Caucus member, spoke about his desire to have the bridge renamed during NBC‘s “Meet The Press” Sunday.

Edmund Pettus was a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan,’ Clyburn stated. “Take his name off that bridge and replace it with a good man, John Lewis, the personification of the goodness of America, rather than to honor someone who disrespected individual freedoms.”

Indeed, Pettus was in fact a grand dragon of the Alabama chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, as well as a former commander in the Confederate Army before serving as a U.S. senator from Alabama, Politico reports. Pettus served as a senator from 1897 until his death in 1907.

READ MORE: How ‘Bloody Sunday’ changed America

The bridge in Selma that goes over the Alabama River was named after Pettus in 1940. Talk of renaming the bridge also comes at a time when other Confederate monuments and statues are being removed.

“I think they will take a nice picture of that bridge with Pettus’ name on it, put it in a museum somewhere, dedicate it to the Confederacy, and then rename that bridge, and repaint it — redecorate it — the John R. Lewis Bridge,” Clyburn continued. “I believe that will give the people of Selma something to rally around.”

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