top of page
© Copyright

FREEDMEN,SURFMEN,                      HEROES

           Richard Etheridge and Surfmen of the Pea Island Station Richard Etheridge and his Pea Island Lifesavers is the unique story of Black and White Surfmen working together at a time in our nation’s history when blacks were considered second class citizens.  In the harmonious environment of teamwork and mutual respect they put aside their differences to save lives from the perils of the sea.  The Pea Island Lifesaving Station is historically significant and distinctive as it was the only lifesaving station in the US to be manned by an all black crew. Under the direction of Keeper Richard Etheridge, the crew was hired from local black men in the community and they were trained to be dedicated and dependable watermen in the service of lifesaving. The men of Pea Island never received any awards for rescues no matter how many lives they saved. It wasn’t until 1996, 100 years after the heroic rescue of the crew of the E. S. Newman in 1896, that the U.S. Coast Guard finally paid honor to the crew of the Pea Island Station. The efforts of a 14 year old girl, two authors, a U.S. Congressman and a diligent Coast Guard Officer resulted in the Gold Lifesaving Medal being awarded to those courageous men who would never know the honor was finally bestowed upon them. The Pea Island Preservation Society is telling this story to school children and has committed to doing programs at the North Carolina Aquarium on Historic Roanoke Island during the summer. Richard Etheridge's gravesite is located at the entrance to the Aquarium.

bottom of page