More than 55,000 vehicles cross the Buck Karnes Bridge on the Alcoa Highway in Knoxville on a daily basis. Starting next week, the bridge will spell out exactly why the structure that crosses the Tennessee River is named for James Ernest "Buck" Karnes.
Buck Karnes was Knox County's first Medal of Honor recipient. He earned the nation's highest decoration for military valor on a battlefield in France during World War I. Karnes returned to his hometown a hero and the bridge was named in his honor in 1933.
However, the current signage on the bridge merely reads "JE 'Buck' Karnes Bridge" with no mention of his military bravery. In May, 10 News reported how local veterans were bothered by the "Medal of Honor" omission, especially considering Knoxville hosts the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's annual convention in September 2014.
Next week the bridge will be rededicated with a new sign that adds the distinction, "Medal of Honor Recipient." The sign will be unveiled Monday, August 19, during a ceremony at 11 a.m.
"Traffic on the bridge will be reduced to one lane from 10-11:30 a.m. for the brief ceremony, which begins at 11 a.m.," wrote Joe Thompson, co-chairman of the Knoxville Medal of Honor Convention. "The Knoxville Police Department Honor Guard and Chief David Rausch will attend in special recognition of the World War I soldier who later served as a Knoxville police officer."
Republican state senator Becky Duncan Massey and Democratic state representative Gloria Johnson of Knoxville submitted and helped pass legislation to change the signage on the bridge. The Medal of Honor Convention provided $300 to pay for the new signs.
You can read more in-depth information about the life of Buck Karnes (as well as other bridges in Tennessee named for Medal of Honor recipients) at this link to the WBIR article "Veterans bothered by Buck Karnes Bridge signage" published May 28, 2013.