Born on a farm near Covington, Tennessee, Ruffin moved to Aurora, Missouri with his parents. He graduated from Aurora High School in 1912 and from Drury College (Drury University), Springfield, Missouri, in 1916. While in college he was a member of Phi Alpha Sigma, and later Lambda Chi Alpha. He taught school at Nickerson (Kansas) College in 1917, before being commissioned a first lieutenant on November 27, 1917. He served in the Fifty-third Regiment, Pioneer Infantry, overseas with the First and Thirty-fifth Divisions, and was discharged on June 3, 1919.
In 1920, Ruffin graduated from the Cumberland School of Law at Cumberland University, Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1920. He was admitted to the bar that same year and commenced practice in Springfield, Missouri. From 1926 to 1928, he served as assistant city attorney.
He resumed the practice of law in Springfield, Missouri, where he died April 9, 1977. Ruffin is interred in East Lawn Cemetery.
- United States Congress. "James Edward Ruffin (id: R000498)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
None (New district)
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's at-large congressional district
None (District dissolved)