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> History: The Quest for a Bridge
> Benjamin G. Humphreys

 

The Quest for a Bridge (continued)

Successfully navigating the political shoals of Washington during the Depression required the efforts of many people, but history remembers Mayor Smith and John A. Fox as the two men most responsible for bringing a bridge to Greenville. In 1937 and 1938, Smith and Fox spent weeks in Washington drumming up support. The two spent so much time at their efforts, Smith's Queen City barrel hoop business would eventually go bankrupt from his continued absence.

The first order of business was to get Congress to pass a law authorizing the bridge. John A. Fox, whose national network of friends reached all the way to the nation's capitol, wrote to Mississippi Congressman W.M. Whittington about the matter in May of 1937, and was told the timing for his request was not good. While considering what to do next, Fox was "agreeably surprised" to pick up the newspaper days later and read that Congressman Wade Kitchens of Magnolia, Arkansas, had introduced a bill requesting permission for the bridge. Fox worked Capitol Hill with Kitchens, Whittington and other friends including Senators Pat Harrison of Mississippi and Joe T. Robinson of Arkansas. The Governor of Arkansas, Carl E. Bailey, had been an ally from the early days of the bridge campaign. During May, June and July, Fox took to the road to meet with Chambers of Commerce from Birmingham, Alabama, to Lubbock, Texas, and got them to send wires to Congress in support of the measure. A new bridge across the Mississippi would have economic benefits that would reach far beyond the Mississippi Delta.

The bill authorizing the bridge was approved in August of 1937 and signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Other needed approvals were gained from the War Department and the Mississippi Legislature.

With all permissions granted, Smith and Fox turned their focus to financing. How much would a new bridge truly cost? Smith and Fox hired Ash Howard Needles and Tammen of Kansas City, Missouri, an engineering consultant with a large portfolio of major bridges, to conduct a study and make the estimate. The consultant determined that Warfield Landing, the site used by the Greenville Ferry, was not a suitable site for a bridge. Their recommendation was to build the bridge downstream, below Lake Chicot on the Arkansas side, in a straight stretch of the river with stable banks. The new location meant long and expensive approaches to the bridge would be needed. The new estimate for construction: $4.25 million.

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