ELLERBE — The Green Lake Road bridge over Interstate 73/74 officially will become the Justice Henry E. Frye Bridge at 3 p.m. Jan. 23.
Invitations went out Wednesday for the ceremony, which will be at the Ellerbe Fire Station on Page Street — even though invitations say it will be next door, at Town Hall. Department of Transportation officials changed the venue this week after town officials expressed worries that their meeting hall would be too small for the expected crowd.
“It’s going to be a big crowd,” NCDOT spokesman Andrew Barksdale said Wednesday, adding that 100 invitations had been sent out. The fire department bays will be opened and chairs set up, Barksdale said.
Gov. Roy Cooper is scheduled to speak, as are N.C. Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon, N.C. Board of Transportation Chair Mike Fox and Richmond County Commissioner Thad Ussery, Barksdale said.
The Mineral Springs Improvement Council first asked that the bridge be renamed for Frye. In April, county commissioners approved a resolution to that effect and sent it to NCDOT
Frye was one of the first black lawyers in the South to serve as assistant U.S. attorney. He later was elected to the N.C. General Assembly, becoming the first black state legislator of the 20th century. Former Gov. Jim Hunt named Frye to the state Supreme Court in 1983, where Frye served 17 years as the court’s first black associate justice and, later, chief justice.
According to his biography at the N.C. History Project, Frye grew up farming tobacco and cotton. He attended N.C. A&T in Greensboro and joined the U.S. Air Force after graduation.
When he returned to Richmond County, Frye tried to register to vote but failed a “literacy test” — and decided to become a lawyer.