Thomas Ruffin (1787–1870) was an American jurist and Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1829 to 1852 and again from 1858 to 1859. He was Chief Justice of that Court from 1833 to 1852.
Thomas Ruffin was born on November 17, 1787 at the residence of his maternal grandfather Thomas Roane at Newington in King and Queen County, Virginia. Ruffin graduated from Princeton University and studied law in North Carolina under Archibald Murphey. He commenced the practice of law in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where he also farmed. He was elected to several terms in the North Carolina House of Commons and served as a Superior Court judge from 1816 to 1818 and from 1825 to 1828. In 1828, the state called upon Ruffin to bring the State Bank of North Carolina out of debt as its new President, which he did in one year. The legislature then named him to the state Supreme Court.
"The election of former Superior Court Judge and State Bank President Ruffin to the bench in 1829 effectively ensured the North Carolina Supreme Court's survival", according to Martin Brinkley (see link below). Ranked by Harvard Law School Dean Roscoe Pound as one of the ten greatest jurists in American history, Ruffin singlehandedly transformed the common law of North Carolina into an instrument of economic change. His writings on the subject of eminent domain--the right of the state to seize private property for the public good—paved the way for the expansion of railroads into North Carolina, enabling the "Rip Van Winkle State" to embrace the industrial revolution. Ruffin's opinions were cited as persuasive authority by appellate tribunals throughout the United States. The influence his decisions exercised upon the nascent jurisprudence of the states then known as the Southwest (Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi), which were settled by emigrating North Carolinians in large numbers, made Ruffin a celebrated figure at home. Public veneration of the "stern prophet," as Ruffin was called, preserved his Court from destruction by populist politicians.
Together, Justice William Gaston and Ruffin, whom his colleagues elected Chief Justice in 1833 (by a coin toss, according to a popular but probably apocryphal account), dominated their less-talented brother judges, rendering treatise-like opinions that inspired one contemporary to exclaim: "No State of the Union . . . not even the United States, ever had a superior Bench; few ever had its equal."
Ruffin wrote the decision in the case of North Carolina v. Mann (1829), which sanctioned the "absolute" power of a master over a slave.
Ruffin was also the author of Dougherty v. Stepp (1835),a staple of first-year Torts classes in American law schools used to teach students about the tort of trespass upon real property.
Ruffin retired in 1852 to his plantation in Alamance County, but the legislature called him back to the Court in 1858. He retired again after about one year, at the age of 78. His home after the end of the American Civil War until his death in 1870, the Ruffin-Roulhac House at Hillsborough, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
In addition to his legal and political career, Ruffin was an innovative farmer, and was president of the state's Agricultural Society from 1854 to 1860.
Ruffin was also a trustee of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for some 24 years.
The unincorporated community of Ruffin, in Rockingham Co., is named for Thomas Ruffin.
The town of Hillsborough is the county seat of Orange County, North Carolina and is located along the Eno River. The population was 6,087 in 2010.
North Carolina v. Mann, 13 N.C. 263, is a decision in which the Supreme Court of North Carolina ruled that slave owners had absolute authority over their slaves and could not be found guilty of committing violence against them.
James Iredell Jr. was the 23rd Governor of the U.S. state of North Carolina between 1827 and 1828.
The Judiciary Act of 1789 was a United States federal statute adopted on September 24, 1789, in the first session of the First United States Congress. It established the federal judiciary of the United States. Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution prescribed that the "judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and such inferior Courts" as Congress saw fit to establish. It made no provision for the composition or procedures of any of the courts, leaving this to Congress to decide.
The Supreme Court of the State of North Carolina is the state's highest appellate court. Until the creation of the North Carolina Court of Appeals in the 1960s, it was the state's only appellate court. The Supreme Court consists of six associate justices and one chief justice, although the number of justices has varied from time to time. The primary function of the Supreme Court is to decide questions of law that have arisen in the lower courts and before state administrative agencies.
Frederick Nash was an American lawyer and jurist from Hillsborough, North Carolina. He served on the North Carolina Supreme Court and was its chief justice from 1852 until his death.
Susie Marshall Sharp was an American jurist who served as the first female chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. She was not the first woman to head the highest court in a U.S. state, but is believed to be the first woman elected to such a post in a state, like North Carolina, in which the position is elected by the people separately from that of Associate Justice. In 1965, Lorna E. Lockwood became the first female chief justice of a state supreme court, but in Arizona, the Supreme Court justices elect their chief justice.
Ruffin is an unincorporated community located in Rockingham County, North Carolina. It is northeast of Reidsville, North Carolina, and southwest of Danville, Virginia, just off US 29. It has a population of 2,116.
John Louis Taylor was an American jurist and first Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.
Richmond Mumford Pearson (1805–1878) was an American jurist who served as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1858 to 1878. He was the father of Congressman Richmond Pearson and the father-in-law of North Carolina Governor Daniel Gould Fowle.
Matthias Evans Manly (1801–1881) was a jurist who served as a justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1860 to 1865. He was the brother of North Carolina Governor Charles Manly and the son-in-law of state Supreme Court Judge William Gaston.
William Horn Battle (1802–1879) was a North Carolina jurist and law professor who served on the North Carolina Supreme Court. He was also the father of Kemp P. Battle.
James Iredell was one of the first Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was appointed by President George Washington and served from 1790 until his death in 1799. His son, James Iredell Jr., was a Governor of North Carolina.
Alfred Moore was a North Carolina judge who became a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Moore Square, a park located in the Moore Square Historic District in Raleigh, North Carolina was named in his honor, as was Moore County, established in 1784, also in the state of North Carolina.
Dougherty v. Stepp, 18 N.C. 371 is a decision of the North Carolina Supreme Court authored by Chief Justice Thomas Ruffin. For at least a century, this case has been used in first-year Torts classes in American law schools to teach students about the tort of trespass upon real property.
Hillsborough Historic District is a national historic district located at Hillsborough, Orange County, North Carolina. The district encompasses 529 contributing buildings, 9 contributing sites, 13 contributing structures, and 2 contributing objects in the central business district and surrounding residential sections of Hillsborough. The district includes buildings dating to the late-18th and early-20th century and includes notable examples of Federal, Greek Revival, and Italianate style architecture. Located in the district are the separately listed Burwell School, Eagle Lodge, Hazel-Nash House, Heartsease, Montrose, Nash Law Office, Nash-Hooper House, Old Orange County Courthouse, Ruffin-Roulhac House, Sans Souci, and St. Matthew's Episcopal Church and Churchyard. Other notable buildings include Seven Hearths, the Presbyterian Church (1815-1816), Methodist Church (1859-1860), First Baptist Church (1862-1870), Twin Chimneys, and the Berry Brick House.
Joseph Grégoire de Roulhac Hamilton (1878–1961) was an American historian of the South, author, and the founder of the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he spent most of his academic career. He published books and articles about the history of Reconstruction but his most influential role was as an archivist, collecting manuscripts from around the South that form the core of the Southern Historical Collection.
Ruffin-Roulhac House, also known as Little Hawfields, is a historic home located at Hillsborough, Orange County, North Carolina. It was built about 1820, and is a 1 1/2-story, five bay, frame dwelling including a two-room addition built about 1830. It is topped by a gable roof, is sheathed in weatherboard, and has a one-bay 20th century replacement porch. The interior has Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian style design elements. It was the home of jurist Thomas Ruffin (1787–1870) from after the end of the American Civil War until his death in 1870.
Thomas Ruffin Jr. was a Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court from 1881 to 1883.
Armistead Burwell was a teacher, Confederate soldier, lawyer, state senator, and associate justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court.
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| Chief Justice of North Carolina Supreme Court |
1833 - 1852