It took nearly all of 1961 for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Commission to vote on the name for the new structure that would connect the Eastern Shore to South Hampton Roads.
Suggestions included the Virginia Capes Bridge-Tunnel, the Virginia Capes Crossover, oceanway and seaway. Lucius J. Kellam, Jr. – yes, the one it’s now named after, said in a June 1961 Virginian-Pilot story that he didn’t want people to think they were going on a boat ride, so he hoped oceanway and seaway would be eliminated from contention.
By October, the commission decided to stick with the name that had been attached to the project from the start, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
The name, and Kellam, stuck around for more than 20 years.
While Kellam was still the chairman of the commission – and at the time the only chairman the commission had ever had – the bridge-tunnel was renamed in his honor.
The honor was bestowed on Kellam for his part in getting the bridge-tunnel constructed.
The Eastern Shore native became convinced in the 1950s that a bridge linking the Eastern Shore with South Hampton Roads was feasible and necessary.
He said he saw the possibility of a fixed crossing after the Bay Bridge was completed in 1950 and connected the eastern and western shores of Maryland.
In 1954, Kellam was asked to head the Chesapeake Bay Ferry Commission. He was the only chairman that commission ever had, too, and later became the first chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Commission. He served on the Commission until his passing in 1995.
As chairman, he oversaw the planning and led the fight for the bridge-tunnel’s approval. He lobbied in Richmond at the General Assembly and in New York at the bond markets. At any time, the whole thing could have fallen through, he said in an interview with The Pilot.
“But for one man, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel probably would not be a reality today,” a 1964 story in The Pilot said.
“It is generally agreed that this modern miracle of steel and concrete, linking the Eastern Shore and lower Tidewater, would be only a far-off dream were it not for the untiring effort and guidance of the 52-year-old Eastern Shore businessman.”
Twenty-three years later, his efforts were honored with an official announcement that was described as being “as low-key as the man it honored,” according to a Pilot story in September 1987.
And though the new name was official and signs erected, unofficially, nothing was set to change. Even souvenirs would keep the original name.
When asked whether anyone would ever think of it as anything but the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, Kellam responded.
“Probably not, but it’s a big honor whatever they call it.”