At the motion of Banister representative Dr. Charles Miller, the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors in their Tuesday meeting unanimously adopted a resolution supporting memorializing the Chatham South Bridge after renowned civil rights activist Clyde L. Banks, Sr.
According to Miller, Banks was chairman of the Pittsylvania County Community Action Board and president of the Pittsylvania County NAACP. He was a businessman in Chatham, a Navy veteran, and his family still owns property in the area north of the town limits.
Additionally, he is regarded as a civil rights leader in the community. Banks advocated for equal pay for county schoolteachers regardless of race as well as equal education for black students and white students in the late 1960s.
“He was a very conscientious member of our community. He was a businessman, a vocal civil rights leader,” Miller said. “It is my honor to propose we name the south Chatham bridge the Clyde L. Banks, Sr. Memorial Bridge.”
The effort to name a bridge after Banks began when the Virginia General Assembly officially named the Chatham North Bridge, which continues Business 29 outside the town limits, after former county supervisor and Chatham mayor Roy P. Byrd, Jr.
Three members of the community north of Chatham, which has historically been a majority black area, addressed the board in November in protest of the recent renaming of the bridge after Byrd.
According to one of these three, Willie Fitzgerald, it was a “slap in the face” to name the only of Chatham’s five bridges that rests within that part of the community after a white man that did not reside in that community.
Another of these community members was Miller, who told the Star-Tribune that he had considered naming that particular bridge after Banks and attributed his support for a board-adopted resolution in favor of renaming the bridge after Byrd to a mistake.
During public comments Tuesday, Chatham Mayor Will Pace, who says it was on his initiative that the Byrd memorial was passed through three boards before it was finally authorized by the General Assembly, strongly opposed any effort to remove his name from the Chatham North Bridge.
“Frankly, the attempt to remove Roy Byrd’s name from that bridge is a slap in the face to Roy Byrd, his memory, his family and common decency,” Pace told the board, while also adding his support for naming the Chatham South Bridge after Banks.