Mackinac Bridge | Laina G. Stebbins
Official dedication ceremonies for the newly built Mackinac Bridge began on June 25, 1958.
The occasion featured a walk across the five-mile suspension structure led by Gov. G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams, the liberal Democrat who served from 1949 to 1961. At that time, Michigan governors served as many two-year terms as voters were willing to give them, as it was before term limits.
On that day, about 100 people, including Williams, were met with a steady drizzle and light fog. Donning a Fedora and a plastic raincoat, Williams completed the walk in one hour and six minutes.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Williams after the walk, according to the Detroit Free Press.
In 1923 the Michigan Legislature directed the State Highway Department to establish a ferry service at the straits. The effort to provide a bridge to connect the Upper and Lower peninsulas began in the early 1950s with the creation of the Mackinac Straits Bridge Authority. Construction began on May 7, 1954. The bridge cost $70.2 million to build and it opened to traffic on Nov. 1, 1957.
Since that time, Michigan governors have attended walking ceremonies each Labor Day. In 1992, 82,000 people walked across the bridge with GOP Gov. John Engler and President George H.W. Bush. In 2003 and 2004, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, jogged the length of the bridge.
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