Part of U.S. 601 named for Earl B. Ruth

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 26, 2012

By Mark Wineka
SALISBURY — The late Earl B. Ruth had so many titles in his life that if you strung them together they might stretch from here to Davie County.
So it was fitting Thursday that the N.C. Department of Transportation — with the help of family, friends and Ruth’s political colleagues — unveiled a sign for the newly named “Congressman Earl Ruth Highway,” the section of U.S. 601 between Jake Alexander Boulevard and the Davie County line.
Ruth, who died in 1989, served as U.S. House representative for the 8th District from 1968-74. Not long after that, President Gerald Ford appointed him as governor of American Samoa, and he also worked a short time in the U.S. Department of Interior.
But around Salisbury and Catawba College, he often went by “Coach.” He led teams in most sports at Catawba College, where he also served as athletic director and a professor. (He had a doctorate degree and also went by “Dr. Ruth.”)
A native of Spencer, Ruth starred as an athlete at Charlotte’s Central High School, where he was the state individual tennis champion. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ruth played on the basketball team, which he captained his junior and senior years.
Wiley Ruth, his son who now lives in Richmond, said his father was one of the finalists for UNC’s head job as basketball coach — a position that ultimately went to Frank McGuire. “Our bags were packed,” Wiley Ruth recalled.
Ruth served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He also was elected to Salisbury City Council and served as mayor pro tem.
Dignitaries attending this morning’s highway dedication ceremony included former Gov. Jim Martin and former U.S Sen. Jim Broyhill. Mac Butner, who worked on Ruth’s congressional campaigns as a young man, led efforts to have the highway named for Ruth.
Butner said U.S. 601 was a perfect highway to be designated for Ruth because it served as the spine for the 8th District, as it used to be configured.
The Post will have more on Ruth and the dedication ceremony in Friday’s edition.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.