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Robert Davis Ruffin

Member From: 1875 - 1877

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  • Birth Date: June 1842 Birth Place:King and Queen County, Virginia
  • Death Date: December 2, 1916
  • Gender: Male Race: African American
  • Spouse: Susan A. Diggs (m. December 22, 1875)
  • Children: No surviving children
  • Religion:
  • Education: Howard University - Graduated in 1872
  • Military Service:
  • Occupation/Profession: Lawyer, land owner and politician
  • Additional Info Links: Bio from Encyclopedia Virginia
    Bio from Virginia's Martin Luther King Jr. Commission
  • Additional Info: *1875-1877 Assembly-R.D. Ruffin was expelled, and E.C. Powell was elected. See links for more information.
  • Bio: R. D. Ruffin was a lawyer, sheriff, and member of the House of Delegates (1875–1876) who achieved financial success in real estate. Born enslaved, he faced controversy throughout his long public life. In 1874 voters in Alexandria (later Arlington) County elected him sheriff, possibly the first African American to hold the position in state history, but he resigned as pressure mounted over his residency. The following year he won election to represent Dinwiddie County in the House of Delegates. He survived a challenge to his election from his opponent, who claimed that Ruffin was not a resident of the county, and he introduced three bills that died in committee. His tenure is most notable for his being expelled from the assembly in 1876 when the overwhelming majority of delegates believed Ruffin stole money from the first door keeper. Ruffin, a lawyer who engaged in real estate, rose from slave to owner of lands reportedly worth millions of dollars. His financial climb was matched by a large number of lawsuits and arrests. To what degree his troubles stemmed from wrongdoing or a cutthroat political climate is unknown. In his later years, he moved to Chicago, Illinois, where he died in 1916.
  • Other Notable Service and/or Elected Offices: Sheriff in Arlington County
Session District District Number Party Leadership Committees
1875-1877 Republican Public Property (1875-1876)

*The information within this interactive and searchable application has been researched extensively by the House Clerk’s Office. As with any historical records of this age and breadth, there may be discrepancies and/or inconsistencies within records obtained from a variety of credible sources. Any feedback is encouraged at history@house.virginia.gov.

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