On October 28, 1921, in Braden, Oklahoma, Ruth Bluford Anderson was born to Roy Bluford and Josie Blocker Bluford. Ruth was the oldest of five children. Roy and Josie Bluford were Oklahoma sharecroppers who struggled to provide their family with the necessities of life. When Ruth was seven years old, her father moved the family to Sioux City, where he worked at Cudahy Packing Company. She died January 22, 2013, at home after a lengthy illness.
Ruth married Everett McKinnis on February 19, 1946, in Reno, Nevada, while on their way to their future home in New York. There were two children born to this union, Dwayne Eugene McKinnis and Keith McKinnis. They were divorced in 1959. On September 23, 1961, Ruth married Danny Oliver; they divorced in 1964. She married the late James C. Anderson on June 8, 1968, and acquired five stepchildren. After marrying James, she joined Payne AME Church, where she was a member for over fifty years until her death.
Ruth Anderson received her bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1946. In 1956, while working for the Westchester County Welfare Department of New York, she earned her master's degree in social work at Columbia University. After the end of her marriage to Everett McKinnis in 1959, she moved to Waterloo. She worked for eight years at the Black Hawk County Department of Public Welfare, before she began teaching in 1967 at Wartburg College. In 1969 she became a professor of social work at the University of Northern Iowa. Anderson's autobiography was published by the University of Iowa School of Social Work m 1985.
In 1965, Ruth Bluford Anderson was listed in Who's Who of American Women. She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1982. In 1985 she published her autobiography, "From Mother's Aid Child to University Professor: The Autobiography of an American Black Woman." She was listed in Who's Who Among Black Americans in 1977. In 1988 she was elected to the Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors, the first African-American woman to serve on a county board of supervisors in the state. In 1990, Ruth Bluford Anderson was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters from Simpson College. In 1992, at the end of her single term on the board of supervisors, she was named social worker of the year by the Iowa NASW.
She became a professor of social work at UNI, where she won a legal battle with the university and was awarded a full professorship with tenure, after having previously been passed over. The out-of-court settlement was seen as a major victory for female professors at public universities in Iowa. She taught twenty-two years at UNI. In May 2012 she received a lifetime achievement award from the National Association of Social Workers.
She leaves to cherish her memory two sons, Dwayne Eugene McKinnis of Waterloo and Keith (Michelle) McKinnis of Davenport; two stepsons, Dennis (Paula) Anderson of Minneapolis and James Anderson, Jr., of Clearwater, Florida; two stepdaughters, Glennis (Kenneth) Wyatt of Colorado and Teresa Jackson of Waterloo; two sisters, Maudie Revels of Oakland, California, and Elsi Brewer of Chicago; one brother, Willie Harvey (Dorothy) Bluford of Oakland, California; two daughters-in-law, Susan McKinnis of Davenport and Shirley Anderson of Minneapolis; fourteen grandchildren; twelve great-grandchildren; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
She was preceded in death by her parents; husband James C. Anderson; a stepdaughter, Valarie Anderson; a stepson, Carl Anderson; two brothers, Roy, Jr., Bluford and Eugene Ray Bluford; and a sister, Mattie Lee Wyatt.
Services will be noon Monday at Payne AME Church, with burial in Garden of Memories. Visitation today from 4 to 7 p.m. and for an hour before services Monday, all at the church. Sanders Funeral Service is in charge of arrangements.
Memorials maybe directed to the family at 1503 Newell Street, where they will receive friends.
Copyright Waterloo Courier on-line edition; downloaded January 28, 2013.