Chalfant man champions naming bridge for historian


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Michael Connors had just three minutes to make his case to Allegheny County Council Tuesday that the 16th Street Bridge should be renamed for David McCullough. It wasn't time enough for all he wanted to say about the Pittsburgh-born author.

"If McCullough was from St. Louis or Cleveland or something, I'd still consider him an extremely good writer and extremely good historian," Mr. Connors said this morning as he walked along the bridge that doesn't yet bear the historian's name.

"But the fact that he is from here and that he's never lost sight that he is from here -- I mean, he refers to Pittsburgh as his home."

And his hometown, Mr. Connors said, should honor its "best and brightest."

That's why when the county council suggested giving names to its bridges, Mr. Connors suggested Mr. McCullough, the Pulitzer Prize winning historian.

Council moved the idea forward Tuesday, voting unanimously to send the proposal to the county manager for recommendation, and setting in motion the possibility that the David McCullough Bridge could span the Allegheny River, along with the Roberto Clemente, Rachel Carson and Andy Warhol bridges.

His quest to rename the bridge began nearly a year ago, but for Mr. Connors, a 50-year-old arborist who lives in Chalfant, his passion for history, and especially the history of this region, has been a lifelong pursuit.

He has written about the region's history for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. For six years, he served as the vice president of the Lawrenceville Historical Society. And he's been a strong proponent for the creation of a statue to honor Gene Kelly, who was born in Pittsburgh 100 years ago today.

But with Mr. McCullough, whom he has met a few times at speaking events, he feels a special connection.

He can remember his father -- a man who grew up with eight siblings in a "borderline Angela's Ashes" existence, served in World War II and then worked in maintenance for Westinghouse -- reading Mr. McCullough's books.

"The only thing I had in common with my dad was the Steelers and history," he said.

As he walked the 16th Street Bridge this morning, he held in his hands "Brave Companions," a compilation of profiles written by Mr. McCullough.

By writing about the past, he said, Mr. McCullough has provided insight into the present.

"In a lot of ways, McCullough is a bridge builder," he said.

Now he just needs a bridge.

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This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To subscribe: http://press.post-gazette.com/ Kaitlynn Riely: kriely@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1707. First Published August 23, 2012 7:45 PM


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