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James Edward BridgersJames Edward Bridgers

James Edward Bridgers (Mr. Ed.) was born in Princeville, NC. He graduated from Tarboro Colored High School in 1938, attended Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) and Artis Barber College in Wilson. Mr. Ed has made a living as a self-employed barber, has owned and operated a convenience store and, as a carpenter, has built and repaired businesses and houses he owned. A savvy businessman, he leases six businesses in Princeville Plaza and he still monitors Princeville’s economic pulse. Mr. Ed is a member of Eastern Star Missionary Baptist Church which he served Chairman of the Trustee Board for 35 years and as Deacon for 19 years. He is now Deacon Emeritus. Mr. Ed served for more than 20 years on the Princeville Town Board of Commissioners, including eight years as mayor. One of his first civic contributions was working to get the Army Corp of Engineers to build a 3-mile levee to protect the town of Princeville from frequent flooding by the Tar River. That dike held back the waters until 1999 when Hurricane Floyd dumped more than 20 inches of rain in Edgecombe County, leaving the town of Princeville submerged for days. During his political career, Mr. Ed was also instrumental in improving the living conditions of Princeville residents by lobbying for and getting street lights, paved streets and water and sewer lines. Even after he was no longer in elected office, Mr. Ed still came to City Hall to express his opinion, especially in hard times. Perhaps the most notable instance followed the 1999 flood when Princeville leaders were asked to vote on moving the town to higher ground. Mr. Ed was adamantly opposed, and his opinion prevailed! In a comment he made in 2005, Mr. Ed said, “When I got married, I had .00. I went into business with .00. I worked hard to get where I am today. I am still a poor man, a self-made man. I did it all in the town that I love. As a young man, I could have gone somewhere else. I came home to make a difference and I hope I did.” His efforts to make a difference earned Mr. Ed North Carolina’s highest civilian honor: the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 2009.