Bridge named for Birge

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 1, 2010

It was just the right thing to do, asking the legislature to rename the Lockhart Bridge to honor the memory of the late Roland Birge – at least in the opinion of his son, Lockhart Mayor Eugene Birge, and his other children – Jack, Bud, Mike, Ottis, and daughters Dianne Bruce and Linda Lee.

“I got to thinking, that every one of the Birge boys but one had served their country in the military,” said Eugene, also speaking of his late brothers, Jerry and Ottis Birge. “My dad, Roland, and his dad, had all been raised right here (in Lockhart). After his retirement, my dad fished six days a week in Lockhart Pond. I’ve been mayor of Lockhart going on 30 years, so I thought (the bridge renaming) would be something everyone could remember us both by.”

Birge and his family got their wish after both the House and the Senate passed a resolution in the span of a single day just before the end of the 2010 session.

Of his request, Birge said, “I wasn’t sure if it would happen, but I tried it and it worked. It’s the first time in my 30 years that, as mayor, that I’ve ever asked (the legislature) for anything, and we’re all proud to see it happen.”

Jack Birge of Crestview, Fla., travels to visit his brothers in Florala regularly. He’ll soon get to travel over the bridge named in honor of his father.

“There wasn’t a day that man wasn’t fishing,” he said, speaking of his father. “I think he would be tickled to see his name on a sign.”

Neither of the brothers had any idea when the new sign will be installed, they said.

Roland Birge was raised at 19 Cherokee Street, Lockhart. He was one of 10 children. He spent his life working for not only “the railroad” but also as a civil service employee at Eglin Air Force Base. He and his family left Lockhart for a short stint in Albany, Ga., only to return and spend his days in retirement, doing as you guessed it, fishing.

“There wasn’t anything that had fins he couldn’t catch,” Eugene said. “I can remember he’d make us boys go and paddle the boat. All he had to do was sit back and fish. So do I think he’d like it if that bridge was named after him? Gosh, yeah. The Roland Birge Bridge – that’ll be nice to see.”