SACRAMENTO – Senator Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado), along with members of the Haggard family, other dignitaries and community leaders held a dedication ceremony today honoring country music legend Merle Haggard and naming in his memory the overpass at the interchange of Interstate 5 and State Highway Route 44 in Redding as the “Merle Haggard Memorial Overpass.”
“The passing of this music icon was not only a great loss to his family and friends, but also to his millions of fans around the world,” said Senator Gaines. “He was utterly unique in both his life and his music and I believe this memorial is a fitting tribute to him in Shasta County where he called home.”
Merle Haggard lived in Palo Cedro in Shasta County for years before his death last year at the age of 79. Senator Gaines authored Senate Concurrent Resolution 139, allowing this overpass to be dedicated in Haggard’s memory.
Although Legislative action is required to name state highways, state law precludes the use of state funds to pay for memorial signs. Luckily, Billy Pilgrim and Patrick John of country radio station Q97 in Redding took on the cause and spearheaded the fundraising effort by informing their listeners and selling t-shirts featuring an image of the memorial sign. The response was enormous and the money was quickly raised.
According to the California Department of Transportation, thousands of vehicles drive daily across the “Merle Haggard Memorial Overpass” and millions of drivers will see the signs each year.
“Merle would’ve been proud to have an overpass named after him,” said widow, Theresa Haggard.
Throughout his career, Merle Haggard achieved numerous hits including “Swinging Doors,” “The Bottle Let Me Down,” “I'm a Lonesome Fugitive,” “Workin' Man Blues,” and “Okie from Muskogee.” These hits earned him multiple GRAMMY Awards, the Kennedy Center honors and various Academy of Country Music Awards.