Following Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing last Friday, tributes from around the world have poured in celebrating the extraordinary achievements of the Supreme Court justice and longtime champion of gender equality. This morning, Ginsburg received a more formal send-off at the U.S. Capitol. Beginning with a moving ceremony that saw a bipartisan group of female senators take to the Capitol steps to bid her farewell, Ginsburg became the first woman and Jewish person to lie in state, a tradition stretching back to Abraham Lincoln in which distinguished citizens have their caskets transported to the central rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building for the public to pay their respects.
Yet, as is so often the case, the most touching odes to her life and legacy came from those who knew her best. Ginsburg’s personal trainer, Bryant Johnson, went viral this morning thanks to the unexpected tribute he paid to his close friend. As Johnson arrived for his turn next to Ginsburg’s casket, he paused before dropping to the ground to do three quick push-ups, honoring her strength and tenacity across 27 years as a Supreme Court justice.
While Johnson’s tribute may have been unorthodox, it fits perfectly with Ginsburg’s enduring passion for strength training. With the help of Johnson—who Ginsburg first met in 1999, and regularly described as “the most important person in [her] life”—the justice became, in the words of the New York Times, an “octogenarian fitness icon,” partly thanks to the Ginsburg-approved book Johnson released in 2017, titled The RBG Workout. Ginsburg credited Johnson’s training regime for her ability to bounce back from the health issues she faced over the past decade, and as recently as April was still frequenting the Supreme Court gym.
Ginsburg’s most lasting legacy will be the impact she made on American law, along with her strength of personality, razor-sharp wit, and boundless energy—but her enthusiastic and vocal advocacy for fitness in her later years also inspired many. Johnson’s tribute may have been out of the ordinary, but it served as a perfect send-off to a pioneering and singular figure in U.S. history.