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  HOME »  AWARDS »   Wilmington Bypass - Chair Road Community
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Awards: Wilmington Bypass - Chair Road Community
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The Federal Highway Administration's
2003 Environmental Excellence Awards
Wilmington Bypass - Chair Road Community

2003 Environmental Excellence Awards Image In 2000 and 2001, as North Carolina Department of Transportation's (NCDOT) plans for a northern bypass of the City of Wilmington solidified, the Reverend Luke Grady remained forgotten by all but the residents of the Rock Hill community, which the bypass was to cross. His modest grave marker stood in the corner of a small family cemetery just beyond the project area, unremarked. Residents of Rock Hill, including descendants who had known Reverend Grady in his old age, remembered his many accomplishments: farm owner, school teacher, member of the North Carolina General Assembly, township magistrate, African Methodist Episcopal Church minister. They also remembered how difficult it was for an African-American to climb to these heights in the North Carolina of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. To these residents, Luke Grady's memory was important as a source of pride in past community accomplishments and as a potential source of strength for future accomplishments by the community's younger members.

Through the course of the planning of the project and preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement, Leigh Lane and Carl Goode of NCDOT's Project Development and Environmental Analysis Branch, Everett Ward of NCDOT's Program Development Branch, and other members of the Department were in contact with members of the community, in hopes of creatively addressing any Environmental Justice issues raised by the project in accordance with Executive Order 12898. Emerson Whitted, a community resident and activist, and others noted the location of Luke Grady's grave and his importance to the community and local history. However, the grave and the cemetery in which it rested were not formally within the project's boundaries. The project would not physically affect them and, although within the project's Area of Potential Effects, they were not historic properties as defined by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

2003 Environmental Excellence Awards Image The importance the Rock Hill community placed in the memory of Luke Grady suggested to NCDOT that the recovery of his story might appropriately address Environmental Justice issues associated with the bypass's passage through the community. NCDOT requested that the Raleigh, North Carolina, office of URS Corporation (URS), which was intensively involved in the planning and design of the project, research Reverend Grady's history. Marvin Brown, senior historian and architectural historian with URS, who had conducted much of the Section 106 survey and review work for the project, embarked on intensive research into Reverend Grady's life and times. His efforts took him to repositories in eastern and piedmont North Carolina and in New Jersey. They also put him in contact with archivists throughout North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Perhaps the most important sources of information for Mr. Brown, however, were located within the Rock Hill community. He interviewed Emerson Whitted, Earl Leroy Miller, Katie Grady, and other community members and descendants of Luke Grady. Mr. Miller, a grandson of Reverend Grady, and Ms. Grady, the wife of another grandson, personally recalled Reverend Grady in the 1920s and early 1930s as a kind, unbent man. Their memories and other family accounts fleshed out the terse bits of information otherwise coaxed from the written historical record.

As Luke Grady's history was recovered, NCDOT and the community determined that the best way to preserve and present this history was through (1) the publication of a historical monograph, (2) the erection of a historical marker with landscaping, and (3) a formal dedication ceremony for the community. Through NCDOT funding, Mr. Brown wrote the monograph, which he and others at URS helped design and shepherd through publication. He also wrote the text for the bronze marker, which was installed by the NCDOT and URS along with the community, which was kept intricately involved throughout these activities. For instance, Emerson Whitted reviewed and commented upon the text of the marker and the monograph and wrote the preface for the latter.

2003 Environmental Excellence Awards Image On Sunday, April 22, 2001, the community, NCDOT, and the Federal Highway Administration formerly dedicated the plaque in Luke Grady's honor at St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church in Rock Hill. St. James, which was Reverend Grady's home church, stands near the heart of the community, a few blocks from Grady's grave and the bypass. On a prominent portion of its property, the marker was raised. At the dedication ceremony, representatives of the community, NCDOT, and Reverend Grady's family spoke. Mr. Brown recounted Reverend Grady's story and noted the valuable lessons it held for the community and its future. The many community residents and guests who filled the church sang with the choir. Following the formal remarks, the crowd moved outside for the plaque's official unveiling. Then, in the church hall, the community and guests were served refreshments and given copies of the Luke Grady history, which Mr. Brown inscribed for them.

The media were invited and covered the dedication ceremony. NCDOT also mailed copies of the monograph to local, state, and university libraries. No copies were sold, but rather all were distributed on behalf of NCDOT. Following the dedication and their reading of the plaque and the monograph, many members of the community expressed satisfaction with the reclamation of the history of Luke Grady and, by extension, that of the Rock Hill community.




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