In Memoriam

Benjamin S. Ruffin (1942-2006)

Benjamin S. Ruffin, the only African American to serve as chair of the University of North Carolina board of governors, died earlier this month at his home in Lewisville, North Carolina. Ruffin suffered a heart attack while jogging. He was 64 years old.

Ruffin was born in Durham. His father was an alcoholic and his mother supported the family as a domestic household worker. After attending racially segregated public schools, he enrolled at North Carolina Central University, the historically black educational institution in Durham. While in college he was active in the civil rights movement.

After college, Ruffin worked as an aide to North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt. After serving as director of the Durham Housing Authority, Ruffin took an executive position at the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. He later became vice president of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

In 1998 Ruffin was named to chair the University of North Carolina board of governors. In that position he was outspoken in his views that the university needed to be more inclusive and offer increased educational opportunities for blacks and low-income North Carolinians. He served two terms as board chair. Since 2002 Ruffin had headed his own consulting company.