Right the Record: Ruby May Harrison Beck


Portrait of Ruby Beck


  • Born June 17, 1909, in Brightwood in Madison County, Virginia to William John Harrison and Isabelle Jackson Harrison; one of twelve children.
  • Left school after her elementary education and at the age of ten, began working as a live-in-housekeeper, cleaning offices, cooking and working in various jobs to help support her family.


  • Married Wilbur Laynie Beck, Sr., a farmer, of Culpeper on December 26, 1936, in Culpeper; mother to one son and one daughter.


  • Graduated from the National Baking School in Chicago in 1956.


  • Cooked at Woodberry Forest School, Virginia Baptist Home and Culpeper Country Club in the early 1960’s.
  • Culpeper Regional Health System (now UVA Medical Center) purchased Ruby’s Sunset Lane 1969 home from her son in 2010 to be remodeled for the hospital’s future use.
  • Bought land on U.S. Route 29 South (James Monroe Highway), built and opened Boxwood House Restaurant in 1964 and the Boxwood Motel in 1966 with a clientele of both African American and white; operated her restaurant until its closing in 1982.
  • As a successful entrepreneur in Culpeper during segregation, she had the respect of African Americans and white locals. Her restaurant’s reputation attracted famous guests including, former President Richard and First Lady Pat Nixon, Queen Elizabeth II, actresses Angelica Huston and Elizabeth Taylor.
  • Ruby was known for her famous signature hot rolls, country hams and homemade pickles and preserves.
  • Older sister Lizzie Harrison was head chef and worked alongside Ruby in the restaurant.
  • Featured on the cover of Parade Magazine in 1968.


  • Named Virginia Small Businessman of the Year in 1971; first woman in Virginia, second woman nationally and first minority business owner from the South to receive this reward; was invited to the White House.
  • Husband Wilbur Laynie Beck, Sr. died November 17, 1972.
  • First African American in Culpeper to own a Cadillac (1974 Deville); famous for her antiques including a Model T car, china and crystal, diamonds, furs.
  • Very involved in community affairs, female African American leader in Culpeper.
  • Aunt of Dr. Hortense Beck Hinton-Jackson.


  • Ruby died March 5, 1998, and is buried beside her husband Wilbur Laynie Beck, Sr. who preceded her in death on November 17, 1972, in Fairview Cemetery.


  • Culpeper Regional Health System (now UVA Medical Center) purchased Ruby’s Sunset Lane home from her son in 2010. It was remodeled for the hospital’s future use and was named the Beck House.

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