OAK HILL, WV (WOAY) – The man often referred to as “Father of Bridge Day,” Burton Ervin finally got the recognition he deserves for being a pioneer in extreme bravery.
Ervin was the first person to BASE jump off of the New River Gorge Bridge in late August of 1979, approximately a year before the very first Bridge Day was held in 1980.
Although illegal at the time before establishing the one day of the year that it’s not illegal, it didn’t stop Ervin from paving the way for the sport to become the popular Bridge Day tradition that it is today.
“Bridge Day has always been a very special thing to me, and I didn’t know it at the time but the first time I saw parachutists I was five years old on Bridge Day in 1989, Burt would ultimately become one of my heroes because of the vision that he had,” current Bridge Day BASE jumper coordinator, Marcus Ellison says.
The Fayette County Chamber of Commerce invited the community out to their headquarters Saturday for the unveiling of Ervin’s sign dedicated in his honor.
They were not only joined by BASE jumpers of the past and present to help commemorate Ervin, but many of his family also came to share in the dedication.
After his passing in October of 2017, his wife, Mildred Ervin says the five-year-long goal to pay tribute to Ervin in such a way is finally complete, and so was his dream of jumping off of the famous steel arch bridge.
“It was one of his goals to do that once the bridge was established there and he didn’t let up until he did it. Today, to us is a happy occasion but a sad occasion too,” says his wife Mildred Ervin.
Ervin’s sign now sits at the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, a few miles down the road from where he made parachuting history 43 years earlier.