Bridge To LBI Who Was Dorland J Henderson

Dated: 07/07/2016

Views: 4222

As I drive across the new bridge span from Manahawkin to LBI each day from my mainland office to my home in Ship Bottom, I take note of the blue and white sign that reads “Dorland J. Henderson Memorial Bridge,” and I ponder just who the heck was Dorland J. Henderson?

Was he part of the Tuckerton Railroad that opened the corridor to LBI? Maybe one of the original local leaders of the U.S. Lifesaving service or a sea captain whose ship foundered on the sandbars off the island? A little bit of digital research yielded the answer.

 Born in 1900, Dorland J. Henderson, of African-American descent, had a prominent career as an electrical engineer with the New Jersey Department of Transportation. He rose through the ranks during a time of great racial discrimination to become the Chief of the Department of Transportation’s Electrical Bureau and the Division of Traffic Engineering. As part of his programs to eliminate racial discrimination, Henderson formed polices that removed questions regarding race, creed, color or national origin from all personnel records and forms. 

Mr. and Mrs. Dorland J. Henderson:Image title

Photograph credit: Marjorie Amon

In the mid 1950’s, Henderson received an assignment to develop a lighting system for the bridge spanning across Manahawkin Bay from the mainland to Long Beach Island. Starting from scratch, meaning without pre-design initiatives, Henderson conceived a design that preserved the low level lines of the bridge span. Implemented in 1958, the final product was the first of its kind in the world. Comprising 768 fluorescent lights recessed in the bridge’s side guard rails, the illumination was described as a “string of pearls” and hailed as one of the most aesthetically pleasing ever designed for a bridge in the United States. 

Dorland Henderson died in 1996, and on November 2, 2000, Governor Christie Whitman officially renamed the Manahawkin Bay Bridge to “The Dorland J. Henderson Memorial Bridge” as part of the State’s “Many Faces, One Family” initiative. In 2004, the fifty-eight year old structure was declared structurally deficient and in need of serious repair. As all who travel the bridge know, a new span has been built as part of a much larger endeavor. The old span will be reconstructed with work projected to continue until 2020. Overhead lights will illuminate the new bridge spans, but LED low level lights will be installed to simulate the original string of pearls effect.

So now we both know about Dorland J. Henderson.

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