Harrison County

Losing her sight didn’t stop this Gulfport woman from being ‘a symbol of hope and courage’

President George W. Bush embraces Ruby Morton, then 74, of Gulfport during her visit to the Oval Office on May 6, 2002.
President George W. Bush embraces Ruby Morton, then 74, of Gulfport during her visit to the Oval Office on May 6, 2002. Sun Herald file photo

An accident took her eyesight when she was a young woman, but Ruby Morton could still see beauty all around her and translated that to her daily life.

Morton, the mother-in-law of Gulfport mayor Billy Hewes, died Dec. 14 at age 90. Visitation is 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Three Rivers chapel of Riemann Family Funeral Homes, and a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 2 p.m. Dec. 20 at St. John Catholic Church in Gulfport.

Morton was born Jan. 12, 1927, grew up in Gulfport and had four children prior to a gun accident that left her blind in her 20s. After the accident, she had four more children. Her youngest, Paula, is married to Hewes.

At age 65, she was looking for work when she turned to Goodwill Industries for employment. She began working one day a week taking phone calls. From there, she was trained to handle all calls using a multiline system, then to handle receptionist duties. She later assumed responsibility as supervisor of Goodwill’s donation center attendants.

Her work with Goodwill was recognized in 2002, when Goodwill Industrial International honored her with its Achiever of the Year Award. Through the international award, she met President George W. Bush and then-Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove when she was 75.

Following her trip to Washington and visit with Bush, she said the 43rd president led her around the office, guiding her hands “over the desk where Teddy Roosevelt, and Kennedy and (Bush’s) daddy worked. ... People telling me about it is one thing. Experiencing it is another.”

In 2015, she was named Goodwill Ambassador for Goodwill Industries of South Mississippi.

In December 2001, she participated in the 2002 Olympic Torch Relay as it passed through Biloxi en route to Salt Lake City for the Winter Games. She carried the torch, with the assistance of a runner, in the area of U.S. 90 near Beauvoir. Morton’s granddaughter Susanne Arnold had nominated her for the honor.

“What I decided last week is that if I can be a symbol of hope and courage to anyone, then I’ll do it,” Morton said in late 2001 prior to the torch run.

Tammy Smith: 228-896-2130, @Simmiefran1