Lewis Ruffner - Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington

General Ruffner became widowed and he and his second wife Viola (née Knapp) Ruffner (1820–1904), a schoolteacher whom he married in 1843, are remembered for employing a young Booker T. Washington as a houseboy in the years shortly after Emancipation. Mrs. Ruffner inspired Washington to seek an education and the couple and famous African American educator became lifelong friends.

Young Booker came to Malden, West Virginia with his mother Jane after Emanicipation in late 1865. Following other jobs of manual labor including working in the salt wells, he served as the Ruffner family's houseboy. He lived there until 1872, when he left to attend Hampton Institute at the age of sixteen.

According to the first of his autobiographies, Up From Slavery, Mrs. Ruffner had a harsh reputation for her rigid and strict manner, was feared by her servants and could only keep temporary employees due to her demands and expectations. She was a conservative and hardworking person who valued education, cleanliness, promptness, and honesty above all else. She taught Washington the value of a dollar, and encouraged him to further his schooling, allowing him to attend school for an hour each day. Washington expresses his extreme respect and utmost regard for Ruffner, calling her "one of the best friends I ever had."

Viola and Lewis Ruffner remained key benefactors of Washington's political and civil efforts, with Viola and Booker T. Washington continuing their strong friendship after the General died in 1883 until her death 21 years later.

In modern times, the Ruffner and Washington families are still good friends, and had a reunion in Charleston, West Virginia in 2002. It is also noted that the Ruffners attend the Washington family reunion at Hampton annually, and both families still contribute to causes for the growth of society.

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Famous quotes by booker t. washington:

    No race can prosper till it learns there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.
    Booker T. Washington (1856–1915)