New North Carolina bridge named after leader of black lifesaving service unit, Civil War soldier

Richard Etheridge, far left, and the Pea Island Life-Saving crew in front of their station on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, circa 1890.


By JEFF HAMPTON | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: February 19, 2018

RODANTHE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — The leader of a heroic Outer Banks rescue team will have a bridge on N.C. 12 named after him.

Richard C. Etheridge fought with the 36th U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War before returning home to Roanoke Island and living in the Freedmen's Colony, where former slaves established a village. Etheridge joined the U.S. Lifesaving Service in 1875, a year after it was formed.

Historic documents describe him as a “man among men.”

In 1880, he was made keeper of the Pea Island Station where he instilled a military discipline. He and his men made daring rescues, including saving the crew and passengers of the schooner E.S. Newman in 1896. Pea Island was the only all-black facility in the U.S. Lifesaving Service.

The Coast Guard awarded Etheridge and his crew Gold Lifesaving Medals in 1996, a century after the rescue. Etheridge died in 1900.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation plans a dedication ceremony Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Building to name the span the Captain Richard C. Etheridge Bridge.

A temporary metal bridge was quickly built north of Rodanthe following a breach in N.C. 12 caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011. The new half-mile long span was completed in November.

©2018 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
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