MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Memphian who led the campaign to install lighting on the Hernando DeSoto Bridge in 1986 happened to be under the span as demonstrators marched up ramps on to Interstate 40 on Sunday, July 10.
An estimated crowd of more than 1,000 stopped east and west bound traffic for hours on the Mississippi River bridge.
Following demonstrations in major cities nationwide, Mid-Southerners associated with the "Black Lives Matter" movement took to the bridge outraged by recent police shootings of African American men near St. Paul, Minnesota and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Pat Kerr Tigrett said she watched Sunday's demonstration and credits protesters, police officers, the interim police director and one truck driver for keeping the peace while frustrations were vented.
"I was under the bridge and I saw the guys start climbing on the truck. I could see them because I was at a wrap party for the Million Dollar Quartet," Tigrett said.
Country Music Television just completed the Memphis based production of Million Dollar Quartet, a new TV series about Sun Recording's Sam Phillips, who played a powerful role in the rise of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and the birth of Rock and Roll music. A party to celebrate the finale of CMT's production was held on Mud Island near the bridge as it filled with demonstrators.
A number of protesters climbed on the cab and trailer of an 18-wheeler during the demonstration with the truck driver's permission.
Tigrett, long one of Memphis' leading citizens, said that truck driver's non-confrontational attitude---allowing some demonstrators atop his rig---helped keep the protest non-violent.
"I think we owe him a great thank you for not escalating it early on," Tigrett said.
Thirty years ago, Tigrett was the key player in raising more than $300,000 to put lights on the Hernando-DeSoto Bridge. A huge crowd lined the riverside on September 5, 1986 to celebrate the bridge-lighting with fireworks.
As for the verbal fireworks on the bridge Sunday night, Tigrett said, "I really don't see much wrong with it quite honestly in that they were peaceful. I think (Interim Police Director Mike) Rallings is the one who handled that in a marvelous way. It could have escalated but I didn't seem to feel that it would."
Now the bridge where so many stood Sunday night will have new lights, thanks to a group of anonymous philanthropists. They've donated millions of dollars to the Downtown Memphis Commission to install new LED lighting on both the Hernando DeSoto Bridge and the new Big River Crossing on the Harahan Bridge.
The Harahan, which celebrated its Centennial cross in the Mississippi this week, will welcome people: walkers, runners and cyclists starting in October.
"All of it is going to be spectacular," Tigrett said.
Bridges and Light: keys to connecting people and points of view...something Pat Kerr Tigrett has helped encourage as long as people connect in peaceful ways.