Documenting the American South

Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
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  • Monument Name

    Thomas Ruffin Monument, Raleigh

  • Type

    Statue

  • Subjects

    Historic Civic Figures

    Historic Legal Figures

    Removed Monuments

  • Creator

    Francis Herman Packer, Sculptor

  • City

    Raleigh

  • County

    Wake

  • Description

    The monument to Thomas Ruffin stood in an alcove at the entrance to the State Court of Appeals building in Raleigh. The full-body statue is cast in bronze and sits atop a polished white marble base. Ruffin is portrayed in a formal style with sealed legal papers in his left hand, conveying his status and his office; his right hand is tucked in his waistcoat. The statue's designer, Francis H. Packer of New York, studied with the renowned sculptor and teacher Augustus Saint-Gaudens.

    Images: Fork lift at N.C. Court of Appeals building | Statue of Thomas Ruffin removed in Raleigh, NC (video by CBS17)

  • Custodian

    State of North Carolina

  • Dedication Date

    February 1, 1915

  • Decade

    1910s

  • Geographic Coordinates

    35.779500 , -78.639550 View in Geobrowsemap pin

  • Supporting Sources

      "Statue of Former Chief Justice Who Was Slave Owner Removed from NC Court of Appeals Building," WRAL.com, July 13, 2020, (accessed July 14, 2020) Link

      "Thomas Ruffin," in the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives Portrait Collection P2, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Link

      Folder 1008 in Bennehan Cameron Papers #3623, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Link

      Folder 1009 in the Bennehan Cameron Papers #3623, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Link

      Folder 1010 in the Bennehan Cameron Papers #3623, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Link

      Greene, Sally. "Judge Thomas Ruffin, Presiding Over a Vanished Era," from “Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina”, http://docsouth.unc.edu/commland/ (accessed May 16, 2012) Link

      Muller, Eric and Sally Greene. "His Pro-slavery Rhetoric Was Extreme. And His Portrait Dominates Our Top NC Courtroom,"The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), newsobserver.com, October 25, 2018, (accessed July 14, 2020) Link

      North Carolina Bar Association. "Addresses at the Unveiling and Presentation to the State of the Statue of Thomas Ruffin by the North Carolina Bar Association Delivered in the Hall of the House of Representatives, 1 February, 1915," (Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Printing Company, 1915), (accessed May 30, 2012) Link

      Shen-Berro, Julian. "NC Court Removing Statue of Controversial Judge, Slave Owner in Downtown Raleigh," The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC), newsobserver.com, July 13, 2020, (acessed July 14, 2020) Link

  • Public Site

    Yes

  • Materials & Techniques

    Bronze and marble.

  • Sponsors

    The North Carolina State Bar Association and the Ruffin Family.

  • Monument Dedication and Unveiling

    The monument was dedicated on February 1, 1915 in the Hall of the House of Representatives in Raleigh. An address was delivered by Chief Justice Hon. Walter Clark of the State Supreme court, and the statue was presented by the Hon. J. Crawford Biggs, President of the North Carolina Bar Association. The monument was unveiled by Thomas Ruffin and Peter Browne Ruffin, Justice Ruffin's great-grandchildren. It was originally placed in the State Administration Building where the Supreme Court held its sessions.

  • Subject Notes

    Thomas Ruffin sat on the North Carolina State Supreme Court from 1829 to 1852 and again in 1858, serving as the Chief Justice from 1833 to 1852. During his lifetime, Ruffin was nationally recognized "for his keen judicial mind”, he was also known for his extreme pro-slavery rhetoric. In State v. Mann (1829), Ruffin held that “the power of the master must be absolute, to render the submission of the slave perfect.” No one remains enslaved out of devotion, he wrote: “Such obedience is the consequence only of uncontrolled authority over the body.” Ruffin wrote hundreds of opinions involving enslaved people. As legal historian Alfred Brophy observes, these opinions “helped keep the enslaved in their subordinate status” while they “protected owners from liability for abuse and from liability for the actions of their slaves.”

  • Controversies

    Following the massacre of nine African Americans in a church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015 by white supremacist Dylann Roof, Americans, especially southerners, have reflected on and argued over the historical legacy of slavery, the Civil War, the Confederacy, and white supremacy. Monuments have been a particular focus of these debates and controversies, especially after the death of a counter-protester, Heather Heyer, at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017 and after President Donald Trump expressed his opposition to the removal of Confederate memorials. Despite laws in many southern states intended to prevent or impede the removal or relocation of historical monuments, protesters and local community leaders have removed or relocated controversial monuments associated with slavery, the Confederacy, and white supremacy. The pace of the removal of controversial monuments accelerated sharply in 2020, following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Against the backdrop of protests against police brutality and white supremacy across the nation, local authorities in many communities in North Carolina removed and/or relocated monuments that were the focus of civil unrest.

    In January 2020, senior Resident Superior Court Judge Carl Fox asked the county to remove Thomas Ruffin’s portrait from the Orange County’s historic courthouse in Hillsborough, NC, “because of his racist past and his participation in slave trading and slave ownership." Orange County Manager Bonnie Hammersley agreed, and the portrait was removed. “As the truth about Ruffin’s life and work becomes more widely known, it is increasingly difficult to justify his portrait in a position of special honor in any courthouse,” the commissioners said in the news release.

    On July 13, 2020, Ruffin's statue was removed from the NC Court of Appeals.

  • Location

    The statue was located in NC Court of Appeals building, 1 W Morgan Street, Raleigh, NC 27601. It was safely removed from the building on Monday, July 13, 2020. As of July 14, 2020, it is not clear where the statue has been taken.

  • Removed

    Yes

  • Former Locations

    The statue was located in NC Court of Appeals building, 1 W Morgan Street, Raleigh, NC 27601. It was safely removed from the building on Monday, July 13, 2020.

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