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Carolina Story: Virtual Museum of University History

Mary Ruffin Smith

When Mary Ruffin Smith died in 1885, she left some of her family property to the university for the education of indigent students. Her father was James Strudwick Smith, an Orange County physician, politician, and plantation owner. The Smith scholarships allowed the university to increase its enrollment and broaden its student body. When Smith willed her farm to the university, she ignored the existence of her four nieces, who were children of her brothers and a family slave. In 1938, a descendant of one of those nieces, Pauli Murray, applied unsuccessfully to the university, hoping to overturn segregation and gain admission to the graduate school.