Ruby Diamond 1886-1982
Ruby Pearl Diamond (AKA “Miss Ruby”) was a life-long resident of Tallahassee and graduated with a BA in Chemistry from Florida State College (now Florida State University) in 1905—the last co-ed class before it became a women’s college for 42 years. She was reputed to be one of Florida’s most affluent women and was a legendary mixture of shrewd businessperson and benevolent philanthropist.
Miss Ruby was born in Tallahassee, FL on September 1, 1886, the daughter of Julius and Henrietta Williams Diamond. Her father originally was a prosperous feed and grain dealer and later owned a mercantile store, a life- and fire-insurance business, several pieces of property in downtown Tallahassee and a 2,000-acre plantation.
Ruby Diamond’s family had accumulated their wealth through a series of business ventures. A grandfather on her father’s side was a Prussian Jew who had come to America to participate in the 1849 Gold Rush and later became a merchant in Savannah, GA. Ruby’s maternal grandfather, Robert Williams, had owned a store and three cotton plantations after the Civil War. After her father’s death, Ruby sold the store but retained the downtown properties. In the late 1920s, she sold the family residence property and moved into the Floridian Hotel, and later, the Hilton, living in hotels for the rest of her life. The homestead property became the site of the first gasoline service station in Tallahassee.
Ruby preferred that her wealth help those in need. Over her lifetime, she contributed to many charities (over 37) in Tallahassee and across Florida. These included childhood education programs, nursing homes, the Tallahassee Women’s Club, Hillel Foundation, the Tallahassee Humane Society and the Salvation Army. Ruby also contributed to organizations in the black community. One of her lesser known contributions was the Ruby Diamond Seed Order—a program that provided needy Tallahassee residents with $1 of vegetable seeds and 50 pounds of fertilizer.
A proud alum, Ruby Diamond was a generous benefactor to Florida State University. She established two scholarships for disadvantaged students, donated land, partially endowed a chair in the College of Education and provided funds for the Alumni Association and the Department of Educational Research, Development and Foundations. In 1970, the university expressed its appreciation named its largest auditorium the Ruby Diamond Concert Hall.
Ruby was also a political activist and fought for lower taxes and racial equality. She and her brother, Sydney, along with other members of the Jewish community, founded Temple Israel in 1937. Ruby never married, though she was engaged on two occasions. Smiley Bruce, her black chauffeur for 16 years, said that their relationship was very similar to the feature film “Driving Miss Daisy.”
At the time of her death in 1982, Ruby was one of the wealthiest and most prominent people in Tallahassee. Ruby’s estate was valued at several million dollars. She didn’t have a fancy funeral—just a plain wood coffin and no pallbearers. She preferred that her money be “spent above ground.” The Ruby Diamond Foundation was established after death and continues to make regular contributions to 23 charities. Ruby is buried at Ahavath Chesed Cemetery in Jacksonville, next to her parents.