Lexington Va: 21 Feb ’70


My dear Col:


            The Revd W. H. Ruffner[1] of this County has been recommended by many worthy citizens as Superintendent of Education for the State. He goes to Richmond to day & I have asked him to make your acquaintance.

            Should you be able to promote his election I think you will benefit the state.

Very truly yours,

R E Lee


Col: Walter H. Taylor

Senate of Virginia


Source: The Archives of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Foundation, Papers of the Lee Family, Box 8, M2009.386, Jessie Ball duPont Library, Stratford Hall


Transcribed by Colin Woodward, 2015 October 20




[1] William Henry Ruffner was born 1824 February 11 in Lexington, Virginia, to Henry Ruffner (1790-1861) and Sarah Montgomery Lyle Ruffner (1787-1849). He graduated from Washington College in Lexington in 1842 and returned to receive his master’s degree in 1845. Ruffner attended Union Theological Seminary in Hampden-Sidney, Virginia from 1845 to 1846 and attended Princeton Theological Seminary from 1846 to 1847. He was ordained a Presbyterian minister 1852 January 14 and became minister of Seventh Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. After resigning for health reasons in 1853, Ruffner returned to Virginia and became a successful farmer. An antislavery advocate and Unionist before the Civil War, Ruffner supported the Confederacy after Abraham Lincoln called for troops in response to the firing upon Fort Sumter. After the Civil War, Ruffner became an advocate of public education and was elected the first superintendent for public instruction in March of 1870. He served until 1882, when turned out of office by the Readjuster party. Ruffner served as a trustee of Washington College and Washington and Lee University from 1865 to 1876. After leaving the superintendent post, Ruffner served as president of the Normal School in Farmville, Virginia, from 1884 to 1887. He then became a surveyor and geologist. Ruffner wrote on education and theology. He married Harriet Ann Gray 1850 September 3 and they had four children. Ruffner died in Asheville, North Carolina, 1908 November 24. Information courtesy of the Library of Virginia, which houses the William Henry Ruffner Papers.