History - Ruby Bridges: Honorary Deputy
Forty years after breaking the
New Orleans public school color
barrier, Ruby Bridges became an
honorary deputy marshal at a
Washington, D.C., art gallery
that featured an exhibit of
paintings by the artist who made
her famous as a youngster.
Former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder swears in
Ruby Bridges as an honorary deputy marshal at the Corcoran Gallery of
Art in Washington, D. C.
In a ceremony at the Corcoran
Gallery of Art, Former Deputy Attorney
General Eric Holder presented a
visibly moved Bridges with a
badge and framed certificate in
front of news cameras,
visitors and Marshals Service
History on canvas
The Corcoran, Washington's largest non-federal art museum, displayed more than 70
of Norman Rockwell's original oil
paintings and all 322 of his
Saturday Evening Post covers.
But it is one of the American
master's paintings in particular that
brought Bridges to the nation's
"The Problem We All Live
With," completed by Rockwell in
1964, struck the hearts of many
during a turbulent time in America.
It featured four deputy marshals
escorting a six-year-old black girl
as she walked to the elementary
school which the local government
had assigned her.
See also a photograph that memorialized this historic moment.
Bridges was that girl.
An unknowing pioneer
She had never seen the
original painting in person prior
to the presentation, but her
recollections of that first day of
school under Service protection
are crystal clear.
"As we walked through the
crowd, I didn't see any faces," she
said. "I guess that's because I
wasn't very tall and I was surrounded
by the marshals."
She attended class by herself.
Her teacher gave her lessons while
the deputies stood guard at the
door. But she deflected the credit
supporters have given her.
"My parents are the real heroes,"
Bridges said. "They [sent me to
that public school] because they
felt it was the right thing to do."
A symbolic tribute
Before bestowing the title of
honorary deputy upon Bridges,
Holder spoke of her lasting
"The small steps of a little girl
were a giant leap forward for this
nation," he said. "Her brave act
gave many a sense of equality.
And the deputy U.S. marshals helped make this a reality."
Former Director John Marshall also spoke during the ceremony, and he was
no less effusive in his praise of Bridges.
"Ruby, you continue to inspire the men and women of the Marshals service
to do our very best. there's probably not one division or office
that doesn't display the Rockwell print."
For her part, Bridges was elated about becoming an honorary deputy.
"I am so proud to have received such an honor," she said. "Deputy
U.S. Marshals are peacemakers and advocates of justice. It means
quite a bit to me."
But Ruby was not the only person on the dais struck by the poignancy of
the proceedings. The president and director of the Corcoran, David
Levy, said, "I can't think of a moment in my tenure that I've been any
prouder that I am right now."
The former Director of the Marshals Service concluded the ceremony by
turning to Bridges with heartfelt thanks and a hug. "We welcome you as
an official member of the Marshals Service. We thank you for your
inspiration and we thank you for your courage."