Daily Archives: September 8, 2020

Once when we proudly honored public service and since…

From the Boston Daily Globe; Boston, Mass. March 8, 1893: p. 6.
It is claimed that the Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw & the Massachusetts 54th Regiment, a bronze relief sculpture by Augustus Saint-Gaudens at the edge of the Boston Common) that was unveiled on May 31, 1897, was the first civic monument to pay homage to the heroism of African American soldiers. In fact, our 1893 Memorial Tablets included the names of both soldiers of African and European descent. These tablets were displayed four years before the tribute to the 54th Regiment in Boston.
Amherst photographer Lincoln Barnes took the photo above of the Town Hall in September 1942. The Rutland VT marble tablets came to be displayed outside in the white encased structure shown here.
Except for a period during World War II, the tablets were displayed inside Town Hall until the building was renovated in 1962 and then moved to the basement before being set in storage in 1997. In 2000, Dudley J. Bridges* began working to have them restored and displayed. To begin raising money, he needed the town to establish a site for them. The then Select Board in 2001 approved the possibility of the Gates lot at the east end of Sweetser Park with the understanding that restoring and displaying them would be paid for privately. Bridges began raising money. But he got sick and died in 2004 at 80.

Today our Memorial Tablets are in the Department of Public Works’ Ruxton Storage Facility. Some members of our Memorial Tablets and Juneteenth Planning Group were to have visited the facility to look at the condition of the tablets but Planning Dept. staff canceled the mid-August visit citing the dirty and unsafe nature of the storage site.

“I went over to Ruxton yesterday afternoon and found the tablets stored in their crates leaning against the back wall of a very dusty and dirty garage bay. The space is full of large machinery and scattered DPW equipment making the tablets very hard and unsafe to access given the amount of obstacles and debris.” 

Call (413) 259-3002 or email townmanager@amherstma.gov and request that the Memorial Tablets be moved from the Ruxton Storage Facility to the Bangs Community Center, so that work may begin to inspect, assess and plan for the prominent public display of these tablets. Once they are moved we can begin to organize teachers to prepare curricular materials, grant applications, etc. to let these tablets “live” in the public eye for the foreseeable future.

To offer support or for more information, contact Amilcar Shabazz, W.E.B. Du Bois Professor of Afro-American Studies, at amilcarshabazz@gmail.com


*Obituary for Dudley J. Bridges

June 3, 2004
Contact: Inside UMass

Dudley James Bridges Sr., 80, of Amherst, retired director of Building Operations in the Lincoln Campus Center, died unexpectedly May 28 in Baystate Medical Center in Springfield.

Born in Springfield, he moved to Amherst in 1948 after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II.

After working for General Electric in Springfield and the Springfield Armory, he came to UMass in 1973 as manager of Building Operations in the Lincoln Campus Center. In 1986, he was named director of Building Operations for Auxiliary Services, with responsibility for custodial services and maintenance for the Campus, dining commons and Conference Services. The following year, he was promoted to director of Building Services in the Campus Center. He retired in 1990.

He was a co-founder of the A Better Chance House in Amherst and a trustee of the Amherst Historical Society, where he initiated a program to display Civil War veteran memorial plaques. He helped establish a Black Historic District on Hazel Avenue in Amherst.

He was a member of American Legion Post 148 in Amherst and a board member of the UMass Retired Professional Staff Association.

His first wife, Doris (Roberts) Bridges, died earlier.

He leaves his wife, Dorothy L. (Morrison) Bridges; a son, Dudley James Bridges Jr., of Ayer; three daughters, Sharon Pariser, of Milton, Debora Bridges Henderson, of Amherst, and Lisa Rossetti, of Florence; two stepdaughters, Deborah Hawley and Carol Sheehy, both of Springfield; a brother, a sister, 12 grandchildren; a great-grandchild, and several nieces and nephews.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Town of Amherst West Cemetery Mural, or West Cemetery Improvements, Amherst Historical Commission, c/o Amherst Planning Dept., 4 Boltwood Ave., Amherst 01002, or to the Amherst Civil War Memorial Fund, Bank North N.A., 67 Amity St., Amherst 01002.