Burke County Sheriff's Office
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Nina Corpening Ross
(October 5, 1887 - August 1975)

The following excerpts were taken from:
"Mrs. Nina C. Ross, Chosen To Fill Out Husband's Term, Is State's First Woman Sheriff: Board Names Widow To Vacancy Created by Death of F.W. Ross" The Burke County News/The Morganton Herald, Tuesday October 19, 1937.
Mrs. Nina Corpening Ross was appointed Sheriff in 1937 following the death of her husband, then Sheriff of Burke County, Fred. W. Ross. Mrs. Ross was suspected to be the first woman Sheriff in North Carolina at the time (discovered later that in 1921 that a woman served briefly as Sheriff in Chatham County), and still holds the title as Burke County's first and only female Sheriff. The following article tells the story of Mrs. Ross' rise to fame, although she sought to avoid the publicity that placed her in the spotlight.
Burke County has the first woman in the history of North Carolina! Mrs. Nina Corpening Ross, appointed by the board of county commissioners to fill out the unexpired term of her late husband, was installed Saturday in the office of Sheriff of Burke County and has entered upon the duties of the position which she will hold for over thirteen months.
Selection of Mrs. Ross was announced by the commissioners less than an hour after they convened in special session Friday morning, a week after the death of Fred W. Ross, who for the past seven years was the county's Sheriff. The meeting was the second for the purpose of filling the vacancy created by the death of the Sheriff from a heart ailment, no action having been taken last Wednesday.
Twelve names were considered by the board as applicants for the remainder of the term which will continue to December 1938. Mrs. Ross, who was 50 years old on October 5, the day her husband suffered a heart attack which resulted in his death, has been a familiar figure in the Sheriff's Office since Mr. Ross was first elected in 1930. Throughout his tenure she served as office deputy in handling tax records.
The retiring, soft-voiced mother of two grown sons took over the duties of Sheriff Saturday morning in an installation marked by the complete absence of ceremony. Hal M. Walton, clerk of Burke court, administered the three oaths required of the Sheriff in the presence of a few deputies, courthouse attaches and the new Sheriff's sister, Mrs. Ruth C. Mull. Six deputies who served under her husband took new oaths the same under appointment by Mrs. Ross. They are W.E. Harris, jailer and former chief deputy; Chief Deputy C.N. Puett, the only salaried member on the staff of deputies, J.J. Gibbs, R.F. Berry, F.B. Ribet, and H.B. Pascal.
Mrs. Ross began immediately in her duties, seeking to shun the publicity which placed her in the spotlight as the State's first woman to have the full duties as Sheriff. She announced that at least for the present she hoped to continue with practically the same personnel engaged by her husband. Questioned a few minutes after her appointment, she said it was entirely too early to answer questions as the whether or not she would seek to retain the office at the next biennial election, but indicated unhesitatingly that her present intention is not to do so.
Mrs. Ross is a lifelong resident of this county (Burke). She was born October 5, 1887, in the Johns River valley in Northwestern Burke, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W.P. Corpening, prominent residents of the county. Before marriage she was Miss Nina Elizabeth Corpening. She was preparing for a career in nursing when as a student nurse at the H.F. Long Hospital in Statesville she married Fred W. Ross of Morganton November 24, 1909. Since their marriage she has resided continuously in Morganton.
When Mr. Ross operated a grocery store here, she assisted in the business as bookkeeper, and upon his election as Sheriff he chose her as his office assistant. Making their home with her are her two sons, Fred W. Ross, Jr., 27, who operates a radio repair shop, and Charles Corpening Ross, 18, who graduated from Morganton High School.
As far as can be learned here, no other woman in North Carolina's history has ever held the full powers of Sheriff. H.H. Honeycutt of Raleigh, prison disciplinarian and former warden at State's prison, is quoted in an interview which followed the announcement of Mrs. Ross that as far as he knew in all his 30 or 35 years in association with law enforcement officers, no woman has ever served as Sheriff. The nearest approach to it was the selection of a daughter to collect taxes during the remainder of the term of Sheriff Estes in Caldwell County, who died during his term from 1902-04. This daughter, who later became Mrs. J.A. Triplett and whose husband was also Sheriff, handled only tax collections on a commission basis, a man having been named to the office of Sheriff, the News-Herald was informed by V.D. Guire of Lenoir. Confirmation is lacking for reports that Chatham County had a woman Sheriff some 15 or 20 years ago. (Note: according to later reports it was found that a woman had served in Chatham County in 1921 under similar circumstances with Mrs. Ross).