CORAL SPRINGS, FL - Coral Springs resident, activist and businessman, John Ruffin, died on July 24, but his legacy will live on with a day dedicated to his service to others.  

Coral Springs city commissioners on Wednesday approved creating a day in honor of Ruffin, 79, who died of cancer.

“He was a true champion and a change agent within our community,” said City Commissioner Shawn Cerra.  

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Added Coral Springs Vice Mayor Joy Carter: “He was a visionary and a wonderful community leader.”  

The following obituary on Ruffin’s life was prepared by City of Coral Springs:

Ruffin was born on June 15, 1941 in Moncure, N.C. He grew up in Chatham County, North Carolina, where his mother was an educator and passed down a love for giving. 

“He can remember his mother standing with young people and helping them write speeches. She tutored people. She was always giving back,” his wife, Dottie Ruffin, said. “So, he grew up in a community where people did for each other and his mother was always giving.

Ruffin, being the son of educators, knew the difficulties in obtaining management positions in white establishments. He attended Morgan State University in Maryland during the civil rights movement, which molded his commitment to equality. He later earned a master’s degree in marketing and industrial relations from Cornell University. 

Ruffin spent time in New York and New Jersey before moving to Florida in the 1980s. He relocated to South Florida as the Corporate Vice President of the Food Fair/Pantry Pride grocery chain. The job would make him one of the company’s first Black vice presidents. 

In 1986, Ruffin and partners bought the WRBD 1470AM radio station making it South Florida’s first Black-owned station. A slew of other entrepreneurial ventures followed. There was J.D. Ruffin Associates, a business that he started with his wife that operates concession retail shops to this day; the Ruffin Group, a consulting firm; and Trans Ocean Holdings, which worked to establish economic relationships between the United States, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Ruffin served as the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) chairman of fundraising for Broward County, raising more than $2 million for scholarships. 

When he retired from his role as chairman, the UNCF rewarded his effort with an eponymous scholarship for which he raised an additional $100,000. 

In addition, John and his wife, Dottie, started an endowed scholarship at Florida Memorial University, for which he served on the board of trustees for nearly 18 years. The Miami Gardens-based university, along with Morgan State, also awarded him an honorary doctoral degree for being a civil right pioneer. 

Ruffin also played a role in many other community organizations, including serving as chairman of the Coral Springs Community Redevelopment Agency.

He was active in the Urban League of Broward County, The Community Foundation of Broward and the Coral Springs Economic Development Foundation.

Ruffin is survived by his wife, Dottie; two children, Jonathan Ruffin and Jehan Ruffin; and three grandchildren.


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