Smiling woman with a gray pixie haircut

Lucille Ruffin-Moore

Lucille Ruffin was born to Louis and Gertie Ruffin on January 5, 1963, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Louis was a history professor at Tulane, and Gertie taught English in a private grade school.

Both Louis and Gertie came from wealthy families, his in Boston and hers in the Nashville area, so when young Lucille was born, she was assured a life of financial comfort as well as one full of intense intellectual stimulation.

Lucille was also a serious child and rarely played in the yard or made mud pies or any of the things the other children did. Almost all of her time was spent in serious reading. She was always at the top of her class and required very little attention from her teachers. The local schools, even private ones, could not challenge Lucille at all.

After graduating from high school, Lucille attended the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where she majored in English and excelled as usual. She was fascinated by the great authors of the South and focused on many of the contemporary authors of the day like William Faulkner.

Lucille earned her master's degree from Brown and her doctorate from Harvard. She had become somewhat of a recognized expert in Southern Literature, and she accepted her first teaching job at the University of Alabama.

While in Tuscaloosa, Lucille met Joshua Moore, who was on the art faculty at Alabama and the son of a wealthy family in Birmingham. They enjoyed a tepid romance, at least by most standards, because they were both so immersed in their work.

Even though others might think Lucille and Joshua's relationship was cold, it worked perfectly for the two of them. They were ardent supporters of the arts and encouraged each other's academic pursuits.

Lucille's dreams came true when she applied for a position at the University of Mississippi. She had always longed to walk the same streets as her hero, William Faulkner, so there was no discussion needed for the couple. They immediately moved to Oxford and settled down to a life of serious scholarship.

Near-tragedy struck Lucille a few years later when, while crossing a swollen creek mentioned in a Faulkner story, she was swept away by the current. She collided with some rocks downstream and nearly drowned, barely escaping with her life and a shattered knee.

Although surgeons did what they could, Lucille would use a cane for the rest of her days. The cane became her trademark, and she used it as a pointer and a prod and was not shy about bringing it down with a loud "whack!" to wake a drowsing student or intimidate a stubborn faculty member.

Lucille's daydream life in Oxford became strained when Joshua was diagnosed with cancer. He was slowly dying, and Lucille took a leave of absence from her courses and research to care for him. She held the paintbrush in his hand when he was too weak, so he could continue to paint.

Finally, after Joshua passed away, Lucille decided that she would not return to work. She had not missed the politics of the academic world during her leave and enjoyed the quiet solitude of her days. So she immersed herself in her own intellectual pursuits outside of the university and puttering in her garden.

Only the travesty of having a beauty pageant deface the memory and work of her beloved Faulkner gave Lucille the motivation to re-enter public life.

 

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