Statue celebrates a little girl's big impact on civil rights

Published: Nov. 14, 2014 at 10:31 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 14, 2014 at 11:14 PM CST
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William Franz Elementary school unveiled a reminder of the struggle for equality Friday. A statue of a young Ruby Bridges is now is a permanent fixture at the school.

The little girl walked alone into William Franz with federal Marshals on the first day of court-ordered integration on Nov. 14, 1960.

Charlie Burks is the marshal shown behind young Ruby in some photos. He is now 92 years old. He and the teacher who taught Ruby during that tumultuous year joined her for the unveiling of the statue and remembered the emotional time.

"I can't imagine housewives with kids of their own would come to the school everyday and carry on the way they did," Burks said. "Throwing rocks, cussing, saying hateful things to Ruby like they wished she was dead. They brought a coffin. It kind of churns your stomach a little bit."

Bridges said in her mind, he was one of four tall white men with yellow bands on their arms. That's the way she described it as a 6 year old.

"I see him now as definitely part of the family my story has created," Bridges said.

Barbara Henry was Ruby's teacher in 1960.

"It was just the two of us in spite of the fact that a number of faculty stayed in the school, but they would have nothing to do with her or me. We shared so many things - we were alone, unwelcome and we never knew what would happen," Henry said.

Bridges said Henry made things fun for her on those days they spent alone.

Burks said it was just the beginning  of integration.

"I'm really, really happy that both of them are here. It's  a reunion that probably won't happen again," Bridges said. "The statue for me is inspiring the next generation, ...and they could see themselves in this little girl and say, I can make a difference too."

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