Thomas Ruffin Gray

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Thomas Ruffin Gray (1800 – ?) was an attorney who represented several enslaved people during the trials in the wake of Nat Turner's slave rebellion.


Early life

Thomas Ruffin Gray was born in 1800 in Southampton County, Virginia to Thomas and Ann Cooke Brewer Gray. His father was very wealthy paying the second-highest tax bill in Southampton with 2,408 acres of land and fifty-seven slaves. He became wealth along with his father, holding twenty-three taxable slaves, being a justice of peace, and becoming a founding member of the Jerusalem Jockey Club. He even acquired his deceased brother Robert’s property, raising his property holdings to eight hundred acres. In 1831, his downfall began as he had no more taxable slaves or horses. In October 1830, he got certified to become an attorney and in December was admitted to practice in court. [1]


Gray was a lawyer. Although he is commonly thought of as Nat Turner's lawyer, James Strange French is the person listed in official records as Turner's lawyer. [2] Neither assertion is correct: William C. Parker was assigned by the court to represent Nat. [3] [4] Though educated in law at William and Mary early in life, he had only recently begun practicing law. There is some speculation that he had lost much of his property through gambling and that is what caused him to begin practicing law, which appears to be confirmed in a pamphlet Gray prepared discussing a dispute with a Southampton County physician, Orris A. Browne. [5] There is also recent speculation on Gray's relationship with a well-known gambler in Virginia. [6]

Gray published The Confessions of Nat Turner, which purports to be Turner's confession and account of his life leading up the rebellion, as well as an account of Turner's motives and actions during the rebellion. [7] [ dead link ]


In the 1960s, William Styron published a fictional and controversial account of the Nat Turner rebellion using the same title as Gray's pamphlet, The Confessions of Nat Turner .

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  1. Allmendinger, David F. (2017). Nat Turner and the rising in Southampton County. Baltimore. ISBN   978-1-4214-2255-8. OCLC   961410000.
  2. Brophy, Alfred L. (June 2013). "The Nat Turner Trials". North Carolina Law Review . 91: 1817–1880. Archived from the original on 2016-04-07. Retrieved 2020-07-23.
  3. Southampton Co., VA, Court Minute Book 1830-1835. pp. 121–123. Archived from the original on 2017-11-11. Retrieved 2018-04-27.
  4. Proceedings on the Southampton Insurrection, Aug-Nov 1831, archived from the original on 2016-08-25, retrieved 2018-04-27
  5. Allmendinger, David F. (2017). Nat Turner and the rising in Southampton County. Baltimore. ISBN   978-1-4214-2255-8. OCLC   961410000.
  6. Alfred L. Brophy, "The Nat Turner Trials" Archived 2016-04-07 at the Wayback Machine , North Carolina Law Review (June 2013), Volume 91: 1817-80.
  7. French, Scot A. "The Confessions of Nat Turner". Encyclopedia of Virginia. Archived from the original on 2013-05-30. Retrieved 2013-08-21.