Murfreesboro trailblazer succumbs

Published 5:55 pm Saturday, August 8, 2009

MURFREESBORO – A man who made history in this northern Hertford County town and throughout the region died Wednesday.

Jacob Ruffin Jr. served the town of Murfreesboro faithfully for 26 years as a member of the town board and was one of the first African Americans elected in local government in the Roanoke-Chowan region.

Ruffin was elected in May of 1969 according to records provided by the town of Murfreesboro. He served faithfully except one, two-year absence until November of 1997 when he retired after just under three decades of service.

“It was a pleasure to serve with him,” said Murfreesboro attorney Bob Lee who was a member of the town council in the early 70s and then served as Town Attorney for more than two decades. “He took a lot of interest in Murfreesboro. He took a lot of interest in cemeteries, streets, the fire department, police department and town employees.

“He was a good influence on the town council because he was a business person on Main Street,” Lee continued. “A lot of times he was the only Main Street businessman on the board.”

Lee said Ruffin was fiscally conservative.

“He wanted to make sure a dollar was spent well,” Lee said. “Mr. Ruffin also was intent on seeing people treated well. He served most of his time with Mayor (W.W. “Billy”) Hill and the two of them were big believers that people should be treated well when they came to the board meetings.”

Ruffin is also remembered as a person who spoke his mind and who had the courage of his convictions.

“He was a man who said what he meant and meant what he said,” Raymond Whitehead, who served two terms on the Murfreesboro Town Council upon Ruffin’s retirement from public office, said. “I dealt with him for a long time and always found him to be an honest person.”

Whitehead said none of the council members that followed Ruffin ever were the same.

“No one has ever spoken out like he did,” Whitehead said.

Bald Head Island Village Manager Calvin Peck, who served as Town Administrator in Murfreesboro when Ruffin was on the board, remembered the councilman as someone who always shot straight.

“We didn’t always agree, but I always knew where he stood,” Peck said. “He never lied to me. He was always an up-front type of guy. You always knew where he stood and I appreciated that.”

Ruffin served for many years with the Mayor Hill. Margaret Hill, the late mayor’s wife, said the two men were friends for most of their lives.

“He and the mayor grew up together in Murfreesboro and were friends for their early childhood,” Margaret Hill said. “They remained friends through all the years of service to the town. I know they both loved the town and gave their best to it.”

Current Murfreesboro Town Council members Molly Eubank and Billy Theodorakis each served with Ruffin.

Eubank, who was then Town Clerk, remembered Ruffin as someone who tried to help the town’s citizens.

“He and I always got along well,” Eubank said. “I think he was a person who looked out for the citizens. Whenever someone came up and asked him something, he would follow through with it or make sure someone did.”

Theodorakis and Ruffin served on the board together.

“I knew him all my life,” Theodorakis said. “I used to stop in his store when I was young. I enjoyed serving with him.”

Hertford County NAACP President Carl White remembered Ruffin as someone who loved both Murfreesboro and Hertford County.

“He loved the county and he loved the town of Murfreesboro,” White said. “He served well – not only as an elected official, but also as a town businessman. He loved people and that is one of the reasons his business was successful.”

Ruffin is survived by three daughters – Dalphine Chambers of Norfolk, Virginia; Susan Ruffin of Washington D.C.; and Jacquelyne Ruffin of Roanoke Rapids. He also has a surviving brother, Samuel Ruffin, and a sister, Emma Ruffin.

Funeral services will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at First Baptist Church of Murfreesboro with the Rev. Robert Richardson presiding.