Preserving Our Past, Capitalizing on the Present, Embracing the Future

Colonel Ruby F. Bryant
9th Chief, Army Nurse Corps

© Mary T. Sarnecky

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Ruby Ficklin Bryant was born on 24 April 1906 in Emmerton, Virginia, to Mr. and Mrs. William L. Bryant. Her father was the Richmond County, Virginia, sheriff.1 Bryant graduated from Farnham High School and attended the Fredericksburg State Teachers College for two years. She subsequently taught school in rural Virginia for several years. However, she had a long-standing desire to become a nurse which dated from age fourteen when she had an appendectomy. Bryant's family discouraged her aspirations. Nevertheless after several years of teaching, Bryant recalled that she finally "decided, 'This is my life,' resigned my school job and entered nurse's training at Walter Reed." Bryant graduated from the last class of the Army School of Nursing in 1933.2 In the darkest hours of the Great Depression, the Army Nurse Corps admitted few new members. Since Bryant could not join the corps immediately, she instead worked as a Civilian Conservation Corps nurse at Walter Reed General Hospital.3

On 4 December 1934, Bryant finally became an Army nurse. Her initial assignment was as a staff nurse at Walter Reed. In 1937, she transferred to the Philippine Department and worked first at Fort Mills Station Hospital on Corregidor and then at Sternberg General Hospital in Manila.4 While at Fort Mills, Bryant helped to set up the hospital within the Malinta Tunnel which would become a temporary haven for many after the Japanese invasion of the islands.5 Bryant returned to the states during the summer of 1940 and assumed the responsibilities of the assistant chief nurse at the Station Hospital at Fort Benning, Georgia and later as chief nurse at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland. In 1943, she transferred to the Third Service Command Headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland and in 1944 became the chief nurse of the Fourth Service Command in Atlanta, Georgia. After the war in 1946, Bryant became chief nurse of the Philippine-Ryukyu Command in the Pacific and in 1947 the chief nurse of the Far East Command in Tokyo, Japan. In 1948, she again returned to the states and became the chief nurse of the Sixth Army at the Presidio of San Francisco and remained there until she transferred to Washington, D.C. to become the ninth chief of the corps on 1 October 1951.6

After her statutory term as chief of the corps expired on 3 October 1955, Bryant remained on active duty but reverted to her permanent grade of Lieutenant Colonel. She accepted an assignment as chief of the Nursing Branch and Nursing Consultant in Europe and served there until 1958. In 1958, she again was promoted to colonel after passage of Public Law 85-155 which authorized permanent rank as colonel in the Regular Army for three Army Nurse Corps officers.7

Bryant's retirement assignment was as Director of Nursing Activities at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Her retirement after an illustrious 26 year career in the Army became effective on 30 June 1961.8 After a European trip, Bryant settled near her family in Warsaw, Virginia, and pursued her interests in photography, stamp and antique collecting.9 In her later years Colonel Bryant provided care for her sister and counsel for all her close-knit, loving family. She peacefully passed away in her sleep on 3 January 2002, and four days later was laid to rest in the graveyard of Calvary United Methodist Church in Emmerton, Virginia.

  1. Ann Cottrell Free, "Army Nurse Corps Chiefs Are Two Virginia Women," Richmond Times Dispatch (14 October 1951): A-3.
  2. Betty Walker, "She Heads 'Angels In Khaki'," Chicago Sun-Times (28 April 1954): 35; Taps, 1931, Army School of Nursing, Walter Reed General Hospital, Washington, D.C. annual yearbook (Baltimore: The Reed-Taylor Company, 1931), 42.
  3. "June 30 Retirement for Director of Nursing," Talon 6 (15 June 1951), newsclipping in Henning Collection, AMEDD Museum, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
  4. "New ANC Chief," The Bulletin of the California State Nurses' Association 47 (August 1951): 308-309; Ruby F. Bryant, handwritten chronology, February 1975, ANC Archives, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C.
  5. "Colonel Ruby F. Bryant, Chief, Army Nurse Corps," 12 November 1954, typewritten news release, ANC Archives, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C.
  6. Ibid.
  7. These three were Bryant, Inez Haynes, and Ruby B. Bradley. Inez Haynes, Interview by Carole A. Burke, 1987, Project No. 87-14, 214, transcript, Senior Officer Oral History Program, U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania
  8. B.W. Wingo, "Retirement of Colonel Ruby Ficklin Bryant," General Orders Number 45, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, 20 June 1961, ANC Archives, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C.; Mabel G. Stott to Anna E. Antonicci, 11 September 1978, typewritten letter, Archives, U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.
  9. Betty Walker, "She Heads 'Angels In Khaki'," Chicago Sun-Times (28 April 1954): 35; Untitled, press release, n.d., Public Information Office, Brooke Army Medical Center, ANC Archives, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Washington, D.C.