A new North Carolina Highway Historical Marker will be installed on the corner of Ash and John Streets in Goldsboro, near First Citizens Bank on Wednesday, May 25, at 4pm. The marker commemorates Ruth Whitehead Whaley, a groundbreaking African American attorney who was born in Goldsboro in 1901 and graduated from Dillard High School.
Ruth was the daughter of Prof. C.A. Whitehead, a highly respected teacher in Goldsboro. In 1919, she attended and graduated from Livingstone College in Salisbury. She married Herman Whaley in 1920, and he encouraged her to enroll in law school at Fordham University in New York. The first African American woman to have beenπ admitted to Fordham, Ruth Whitehead Whaley graduated at the top of her class in 1924.
Whaley passed the New York bar exam in 1925 and became one of the first African American women to practice law in New York. Though her practice was in New York, with the support of family friend and local attorney Hugh Dortch, Ruth Whitehead Whaley returned to Goldsboro in 1933 to be sworn into the North Carolina State Bar, becoming the first African American woman to be licensed in North Carolina.
In New York, Whaley was an expert in civil service law, representing black local government employees in discharge proceedings. She was later appointed secretary of the New York City Board of Estimate, working in tandem with the City Council. An outstanding attorney, Whaley was the first president of the New York City National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women, also serving as president of the National Council for Negro Women.
For two years, Sherwood Williford and Ellen Bland worked with Ansley Wegner at the NC Highway Historical Marker Program in the Office of Archives and History to gain approval for this sign.