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Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge is First Dedicated to Civil Rights Leader

By Wendell Hutson | April 16, 2013 7:25am | Updated on April 16, 2013 10:29am
 On Saturday, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge was unveiled on the South Side at 99th Street and KIng Drive.
On Saturday, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge was unveiled on the South Side at 99th Street and KIng Drive.
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DNAinfo/Wendell Hutson

ROSELAND — For nearly a half-century, a street in Chicago has been named after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Now, thanks to South Side residents, there is a bridge named for the civil rights leader as well.

The Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Memorial Bridge was unveiled over the weekend at 99th Street and King Drive in Roseland. It spans Interstate 57 near a Secretary of State Driver Services Facility.

The idea to rename the bridge came from residents, said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th).

"The community came to me with this request, and I then took it to the appropriate people to get it done," Beale said. "There are no other bridges in Chicago named after Dr. King besides the one in my ward."

State Sen. Emil Jones III (D-Chicago) sponsored the resolution dedicating the state bridge to King.

“The community has spoken,” Jones said. “Dr. King dedicated his life to fighting for the rights of the most disenfranchised and underserved Americans. It’s only right that we honor his name by placing it on the bridge. There’s no way we can pay Dr. King back for his contribution to society, but we can pay our respect by memorializing his name.”

One of the residents who pushed for the bridge naming was Mattie Green, 67, who lives in the 10200 block of South King Drive.

"Before I retired, I would drive past the bridge a lot. It was not until King's birthday this year when I was reading a story about King Drive street that I got the idea for the bridge," Green said. "From there, I spoke to a few neighbors, and before I knew it we were meeting with the alderman about it."

King has had a street in Chicago named after him for the last 45 years.

Dr. Martin L. King Drive begins just south of Cermak Road and stretches to 115th Street. The street runs through predominantly black South Side neighborhoods from the Bronzeville community to Roseland, and spans 14 miles.

It was originally named Grand Boulevard, then South Parkway, before finally being renamed in King's honor in 1968.

Historian Timuel Black, who traveled with King, said the latest honor is long overdue.

"Dr. King marched in Chicago for equality and justice, and he crossed over plenty of bridges," Black said. "There should have been a bridge named in his honor a long time ago."

Secretary of State Jesse White praised the bridge dedication.

"Naming a bridge after Dr. King was the right thing to do," White said. "I remember when we were called 'colored,' and Dr. King would always tell young people not to get upset at what people called you. He said if it is not the name your mother gave you, then smile, keep walking, and that's exactly what we did."