Dedication of the New River Gorge Bridge

Fayette Tribune
October 27, 1977

Good Day For Politicians

By John D. Law

Politicians like nothing better than a sunny day, bands playing and a large, enthusiastic crowd, Saturday, Oct. 22, the date of the dedication of the New River Gorge Bridge in Fayette County, was just such a day, and politicians, both active and non-active, took every advantage of it.

All levels of government were represented at the bridge dedication from members of local town councils to a United States senator. Most of the council members walked placidly over the bridge on foot. U.S. Sen. Jennings Randolph and Rep. Harley Staggers, however, arrived grandly in a white and blue helicopter after "buzzing" the gorge several times during their approach.

Gov. and Mrs. Jay Rockefeller also arrived in a helicopter, but not quite as visibly as West Virginia's two Washington representatives.

All of the politicians polled were unanimous in their acclaim of Fayette County and the New River Gorge Bridge.

Mayor W. A. Bragg of Ansted thinks "the bridge should help all of us if it is properly used."

Del. Sarah Lee Neal, a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates from neighboring Greenbrier County, said the bridge is "absolutely unbelievable it is so gorgeous." The bridge, she added, "is something West Virginia has and everybody else wishes they had."

Okey Patterson [sic], a Fayette County resident and former governor of West Virginia, thinks the bridge is "One of the greatest things that has happened to Fayette County and to West Virginia in a long time."

Another Greenbrier County delegate, Betty D. Crookshanks of Rupert, was born in Russellville in Fayette County and went to high school at Lookout. She was breathless in her admiration of the bridge calling it that seemingly favorite adjective of the day, "fantastic."

Construction of the bridge began during the term of Gov. Arch A. Moore Jr. He attended the dedication ceremony along with members of his family. When asked to comment on the dedication ceremonies, he said the bridge dedication was a "terribly significant day for West Virginia." Moore estimates that another generation will have to pass before West Virginia realizes the full importance of the New River Gorge Bridge.

One of the more vocal members of the West Virginia House of Delegates, Charles Donley, said the bridge dedication was "one of the finest things I've ever been to in my entire life. It stands second only to my marriage and the birth of my children," he added.

Former Gov. Hutlett [sic] Smith called the opening of the bridge "a great day for southern West Virginia." The bridge's opening, he added, "realizes a long-time dream to unite West Virginia. Part of the great importance of this dream," he continued, "is to unite Fayette County which has been divided for so long by the river."