(Due to COVID restrictions and space limitations, the family will be celebrating the life of our beloved father, grandfather, and friend in a private service. It is our intent to have a memorial service for the larger community and friends as soon as the pandemics subsides.)
A Life of Service
Dr. Robert Bridges was born on December 16, 1933, the oldest child of Dewood Sr. and Neomia Ellis Bridges in Cherokee County, South Carolina. He departed this life September 12, 2021, at Hospice Home in Burlington, North Carolina.
Dr. Bridges spent his formative years in Shelby, North Carolina where he graduated from Camp High School as valedictorian. He furthered his education by earning an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Saint Augustine’s College, a Master of Education from North Carolina State University, and a Doctor of Education from Duke University.
Dr. Bridges became a member of Saint Ambrose Episcopal Church while in college. He later served on the vestry of Saint Ambrose. He served his country as a member of the United States Army from 1953-1955. Dr. Bridges was an active member of the Raleigh Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. holding several leadership positions over the years. He was also a key leader and lifetime member of the Capitol City Sertoma Club.
Dr. Bridges chose education as a profession and spent his entire career in Wake County. During his twenty-nine-year career, Dr. Bridges helped integrate the schools of Wake County, participated in the merger of the Raleigh City and Wake County School Systems into one, and oversaw unprecedented student growth. He was also an active participant in the implementation of the school system’s magnet program and oversaw the opening of the first year-round school. Aware of the need for African American male children to have mentors and encouragement in achieving academic success, he created the non-profit Helping Hands Program, which placed mentors with children who could benefit from strong role models. Dr. Bridges “touched all the bases” he would often say about his career. He successfully ascended through the professional ranks as a teacher, counselor, principal, assistant superintendent, deputy superintendent, and during his final years before retirement served as the first African American superintendent of the Wake County Public Schools.
After retirement Dr. Bridges continued promoting education through varies roles, and created his consulting firm, Education Initiatives. Having additional time after retirement, Dr Bridges wrote his autobiography, From My Culture To The Mainstream…And Back Again. He served as a mentor for principals and superintendents and educators in general throughout North Carolina. He served as Provost at Saint Augustine’s College and was asked to Chair the North Carolina Advisory Commission on Raising Achievement and Closing Gaps. The recommendations generated from the Commission are still considered relevant today as we continue to examine ways for all children to achieve at high levels.
Dr. Bridges’ impact on the community and the school system has been recognized throughout the years by numerous awards and honors, including Rex Health Board of Trustees, Wake Education Partnership Lifetime Achievement Award, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine (the highest civilian recognition given by the Governor of North Carolina), and the North Carolina School Board Association Superintendent of the Year. He was the recipient of the Jay Robinson Leadership Award and inducted into the Raleigh Hall of Fame to name a few.
Dr. Bridges was preceded in death by his wife Hattie Hicks Bridges, parents, Dewood Sr. and Neomia Bridges, sisters Bertha Merritt, Idella Degree, and brother Dewood Bridges, Jr.
Along with the countless people who loved and respected him as a man and educational leader, Dr. Bridges will be mourned by his two children, LaPonda Parker (Reggie) of Charlotte NC, Dr. Randy Bridges (Vernetta) of Burlington, NC, four grandchildren, Dr. Randi Raynor (Breyon) of Concord, NC, Garrett Bridges (Janay) of Durham, NC, Taylor Higgins (Tremayne) of Charlotte, and Kelsie Parker of Boston MA; five great grandchildren, Dezaya and Bryce Raynor, Grey and Nova Bridges, Parker Rae Higgins; one sister, Garenel Strickland of Shelby, NC, a special friend Dr. Ida Dark of Durham, NC and a host of other relatives and friends.
Private service will be held at St. Ambrose Episcopal Church on Saturday September 18, 2021 beginning at 12:00 PM. Live streaming will be available at: https://stambroseraleigh.org/live-streaming/
Your cards and condolences should be mailed to the following address: The Bridges Family, 4120 Dublin Court, Burlington, NC 27215
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Dr. Robert E. Bridges, please visit our floral store.