Harris, Ruth Coles
- Theresa A. Hammond
the first African American female certified public accountant in Virginia, was born Ruth Hortense Coles in Charlottesville, Virginia, to Bernard Albert Coles, a dentist, and the former Ruth Hortense Wyatt, a teacher. As a child she enjoyed playing “office” with her older sister and she excelled in school, graduating as valedictorian of her class at Jefferson High School when she was only fifteen years old. She entered Virginia State College for Negroes and majored in business administration. Despite graduating again as valedictorian Harris received only one job offer, as a bookkeeper for a meatpacking plant in Cleveland. Her accounting professor, George G. Singleton encouraged her to instead attend New York University for graduate school in accounting In the 1940s African Americans could not attend graduate professional schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia but to avoid lawsuits contending that the state did not provide separate but equal graduate ...
A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.