Rosa Parks, who took the most famous bus ride in U.S. history, was honored by he American Public Transit Association on Wednesday with its first lifetime achievement award.
“It is because she chose to sit where she sat that I can stand where I stand,” said Gordon J. Linton, the head of the Federal Transit Administration. He called Parks the “first lady of civil rights.”
Parks was honored for her refusal on Dec. 1, 1955, to surrender her seat on a segregated Montgomery, Ala., city bus to a white passenger as the law required. Her arrest sparked a yearlong boycott of Montgomery buses by blacks that propelled the Rev. Martin Luther King into prominence.
“She truly is a national heroine,” said Sen. John Chaffee, R-R.I. He called Parks, now 84, the spark that triggered the civil rights movement.
“Mrs. Parks sat that our nation could stand taller,” said Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater. “If it had not been for people like Mrs. Parks, many of us would not be here today.”
And the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and chairman of the board of Atlanta’s rapid transit authority, said her act “sent the clear message that public transit was people transit.”
“Because of your courage, Rosa Parks … there is dignity for everyone here,” Lowery said. Thanks to you, we can move with dignity. You are the Queen Mother of the movement.”