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Hillsborough, N.C.

The Hillsborough Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing to consider a request to rename Thomas Ruffin Street.

The hearing will be held as part of the board’s regular meeting at 7 p.m. March 8. It follows a petition signed by all residents of the street. The petition, submitted Feb. 2, asks that the board change the street’s name to Hope Lane. This will be the first hearing held under the town’s recently amended section of the Code of Ordinances addressing street naming and renaming.

“A street name is an honor, and we feel a responsibility for the subtle messages we send to all our community members,” the petition states as a reason for the name change. “Considering all we have learned about Judge Ruffin, and considering how his image and legacy are being handled in our North Carolina public buildings recently, we, the residents of Thomas Ruffin Street, unanimously feel compelled to remove his name from our beloved street.”

The petition further states, “Hope Lane is a poetic name (hope springs eternal in the human breast). It is also a historic name, in that our generations are grappling with forces that have divided our nation — may we find a new place of concord.”

Ruffin served as a justice of the N.C. Supreme Court 1829-52 and 1858-59. He was chief justice 1833-52. His treatment of those he enslaved and his slave trading practices have been said by historiansto have been unusually cruel. His legal writings while on the court supported the authority of slave owners over those enslaved.