Christiansted Housing Complex Renamed for Trailblazing Woman

June 17, 2008 — Two decades after her death, Sen. Ruby Margaret Rouss was remembered Tuesday as a pioneer in the military and local politics during a ceremony to rename a Christiansted housing complex in her honor.
Watergut Homes was renamed the Ruby M. Rouss Housing Complex in an event that brought together more than 50 officials, past senators, commissioners, friends and family of Rouss.
"Sen. Rouss was a dedicated and very inspiring leader," said Clifford Graham, executive director of the V.I. Housing Finance Authority. "I hope the name Watergut will now be permanently retired."
A vacant chair with a cream-colored cover and teal blue ribbon sat next to the podium, with a black-and-white photo of Rouss at the speakers' table. Rouss passed away in May 1988.
Former Sen. Carol Burke sponsored legislation in February 1998 recognizing and honoring Rouss for her years of service.
"Sen. Rouss was a maverick and stalwart politician," Burke said. As a little girl, Burke said, she spent a lot of time at her grandparents' home in Watergut and remembered how well Rouss spoke.
"She touched me in the most uncanny way," Burke said.
Rouss was born in Christiansted in 1921, according to the ceremony's program. At 16 she moved to New York, where she completed high school. She entered the Women's Army Corp and attained the rank of master sergeant. She was the first V.I. woman to join the U.S. Armed Forces.
She distinguished herself as an African American when she served as secretary to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower at the office of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Later Eisenhower would become president of the United States.
In 1972 Rouss was elected to the 10th Legislature. She went on to serve in the 13th, 14th, 16th and 17th legislatures, serving twice as senate president. In 1964 she served as a delegate to the first Constitutional Convention.
"She was a soldier in every way of her life," said former Sen. John Bell, who served with Rouss. "Her weakness was she loved other people more than herself."
Among other firsts, Rouss was the first woman to run for governor of the territory.
She demonstrated her commitment to children by adopting five foster children. She lobbied for academics and after-school projects. She initiated summer-employment opportunities for students.
"I have always been proud of my grandmother, and it was wonderful to know her," said Rhalina LaPlace, Rouss' granddaughter, as she accepted flowers in her memory. "It is wonderful her work and memory are being acknowledged."
Lt Gov. Gregory Francis told the group that the first home his wife and he made together was in the housing complex. It's a well-kept community that is clean, with the grass cut and buildings painted, and full of pride. It's a community that serves as a model for all housing communities, Francis said.
"Ruby Rouss is still alive in our hearts because she was so good to us," said Rev. Louis Davis, pastor at St. Luke African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, in the benediction.
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