The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 16, 2009

Johnstown bridge renamed in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.


Johnstown made history Thursday as the Walnut Street Bridge was renamed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge.

The effort to unite the community was initiated by local resident Anthony Gergely, who said he thought there was a lack of recognition of African-Americans in the area.

“This is a great day for the city, and I’m so happy to see this happen,” he said during a dedication ceremony at the nearby Johnstown Train Station.

Gergely worked on the project with state Sen. John Wozniak, D-Westmont. The proposed name change took a year in the Legislature before Gov. Ed Rendell signed House Bill 1723.

A plaque will be displayed on the bridge honoring King.

Thomas Smith, former president of the Johnstown branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the state NAACP conference, said the bridge symbolizes closing the gap between the races.

“It’s wonderful to witness what we can do if we work together,” he said. “This bridge is a symbol of hope for all people and for those yet to come.”

The ceremony included entertainment by the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church youth choir and praise dance members.

Isa Wadley, a student at Bishop McCort High School, read an abbreviated version of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Other participants included community leaders and local pastors, who spoke on their thoughts about King and renaming the bridge in his honor.