ST. LOUIS — Former Democratic U.S. Congressman William Clay Sr. reflected on how bridges have played a part in his life at a ceremony in which the Poplar Street Bridge was officially renamed the “Congressman William L. Clay Sr. Bridge.”
A bipartisan majority of the legislature voted to pass a bill that allowed for the bridge’s name change, which the governor ultimately signed.
Clay Sr. says his father rode the McKinley Bridge to and from work for more than 30 years.
“He earned a good living that enabled him to take care of his wife of 60 years and seven children,” he says. “So how can the Clays not remember and appreciate what the fabulous bridge meant to us in our lives.”
Civil rights protestors crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Alabama and were met by police brutality in 1965 on what came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” The movement on that bridge helped pave Clay’s way to becoming a congressman, he says.
He used “bridges” in the metaphorical sense, stating how “building bridges” helped him pass the Family and Medical Leave Act as well as legislation that supported political freedom for federal employees, strengthened rules on pension plans and rewrote higher education as well as secondary and elementary school bills.
“My mission in Congress for 32 years was to build bridges that carried resources to economically under-privileged and those discriminated [against] because of race, gender and age,” Clay says. “My message to those of you still battling the forces of hate and ignorance is to ignore that group of idiots who want to destroy bridges of government assistance. Do not join those chanting the idiotic slogan of government is the problem and should get out of the way. Government has a sacred responsibility to play a major role in building the bridges that elevate the standard of living for its citizens.”
Clay gave special thanks to state Rep. Penny Hubbard, D-St. Louis, who sponsored the bill to rename the bridge.
“Representative Hubbard, let me again thank you for remembering that bridges have played an important and indispensable role in my life,” Clay says. “Thanks for remembering that bridges have made my life worth living.”
Hubbard, Clay’s son Congressman Lacy Clay, Gov. Jay Nixon, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley and KMOV’s Robin Smith joined Clay Sr. at the ceremony.
Brittany Ruess was a reporter for The Missouri Times and the SEMO Times, and a graduate of Webster University.