BELOIT - With a backdrop of blue skies Saturday morning, proud family members, city councilors, friends and fans of Walter R. Knight gathered to pay homage to the humble man known as a leader, motivator and educator.
On Saturday morning the Beloit City Council held a ceremony to rename the Portland Avenue Bridge after Beloit's first African-American city councilor, Walter R. Knight.
"Today is very special because we are recognizing Mr. Knight. He is a living legend and has given a lot to our entire community," said City Council President Regina Dunkin in an interview before the ceremony.
Former Beloit City Council President Kevin Leavy said the bridge naming was a monumental step. He highlighted some of Knight's achievements including working 35 years at Fairbanks Morse and serving as director of the Rock County Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC) for more than 30 years. The OIC provided job training and readiness skills to help area residents find employment.
Knight was born in Arkansas in 1933 and came to Beloit at the age of 18 and remained a continuous citizen of the city. Knight, 85, became a union leader and organizer, and served on the Beloit City Council including serving two terms as president. He also served as secretary and chairman of the Police and Fire Commission and on a variety of ad-hoc committees.
Leavy called Knight a leader, motivator and educator with integrity, humility and a commitment to diversity.
Knight's son-in-law Robert Grady said Knight instilled values in family members as well as youth around the city which will help Beloit be a beacon of light in the state and community for years to come.
Before the new bridge signage was unveiled, Knight said he was almost at a loss for words over the honor.
At the ceremony, City Manager Lori Curtis Luther also noted there are boulders with plaques honoring Knight on the other side of the bridge. She then invited the community to celebrate the Juneteenth festivities at Telfer Park following the tribute to Knight.