CHATHAM, Va. (WFXR) — Clyde L. Banks Sr. was a man committed to making life better for all.
“For the things that you see in the community that you don’t care for, strive to make them different, and don’t be discouraged,” said his son, Clyde L. Banks Jr.
It’s a message for which Banks Jr. says his father, a local civil rights hero, stood.
During his life, Banks was a business owner and the former President of the Pittsylvania County NAACP.
The Chatham South Bridge, which enters Chatham from Route 29 North, will bear his name — a memorial to a man his friends fittingly called a “bridge-builder.”
Banks worked to get Black residents hired as sheriff’s deputies and was jailed himself during a civil rights sit-in in Danville.
“My mother, my brother, my uncle, cousins, and many others were arrested with Mr. Banks at the same time for trying to bring about equality for all,” said Sherman Saunders, a Danville City Councilman.
He passed away in 2008, but his impact continues.
Banks also advocated for equal pay between white and Black teachers and fought for school integration.
“He was a kid himself,” said Banks’ niece, Vanessa Hunt Blunt. “He went to the Board of Supervisors meeting and fought for a bus … a bus, to take the kids from Chatham to [the] north side.”
Former Attorney General Mary Sue Terry is the first, and so far only, woman ever elected statewide in Virginia. At the dedication ceremony, she credited her historic electoral successes to Banks’ support, starting with her House of Delegates race.
She says the bridge dedication is an important symbol, describing Banks as a “bridge-builder.”
“There are few people with the courage and resolve to do the hard work so that over time things could come together,” said Terry.
Other speakers at the dedication ceremony on Monday, July 26 credited Banks, who pushed for workplaces to diversify, with their ability to get hired in Pittsylvania County businesses several decades ago, not knowing at the time that Banks had advocated behinds the scenes on their behalf.
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