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Wilmington honors former mayor with bridge dedication

Wilmington’s North Market Street Bridge was renamed for former Mayor James Sills at a ceremony Monday morning Fletcher Brown Park.

Sills - also a former state representative and city councilman - was elected as the city's first African American mayor in 1992 after a surprising win over incumbent Daniel Frawley in the Democratic primary.

[caption id="attachment_64869" align="alignright" width="300"] Wilmington Mayor Dennie Williams (D) looks on as former Mayor James H. Sills, Jr., addresses the crowd gathered at the ceremony in his honor.[/caption]

He served two terms as mayor until being unseated in 2000 by James Baker.

The 150-foot bridge - originally built in 1928 - underwent reconstruction in 2002 and symbolizes the connection of the city's downtown and business districts with the neighborhoods on the north side of Brandywine Creek.

Sills says he takes pride in having his name be synonymous with the structure.

"It's a bridge that has in a pivotal way contributed to the growth and economic development of our city," he said. "And I couldn't be prouder, frankly, to have my name associated with such an historic site in Wilmington."

State, county and city lawmakers took part in the ceremony and a plaque situated on the southwest side of the bridge commemorating Sills' commitment to public service and the community.

Current mayor Dennis Williams has known Sills for almost fifty years and says the gesture shows city residents still have a fondness a man who remains a fixture in the state’s largest city.

“The traffic that comes across this bridge, people will read ‘Former Mayor James H. Sills, Jr.,'" Williams said. "He resides [nearby] right over there in the towers. This is great for him and its great for the city and its great for the community. It shows that people are very supportive of this man and the good works that he’s done.”

Sills also spent time as a professor and senior adviser at the University of Delaware.

Known for his civil rights work, Sills additionally had stints as president of the Wilmington NAACP as well as president of the Christina School District and numerous housing associations.