Ruth Potter grew up as the daughter of Vivian Potter, the maid and housekeeper for Rebecca Whitmore, in the Whitmore mansion and being the only black in an all-white school, full of resentment.

When Generations debuted in March of 1989, Ruth had channeled her resentment and ambition into helping her husband, Henry Marshall, become successful. With the help of their longtime friend, Rebecca Whitmore, now a successful attorney, Henry was able to finance his own business, Marshall's Chicago Ice Cream. Eventually, the Marshalls had owned and operated five successful ice cream parlors throughout the greater Chicago area. Ruth and Henry had three children: Chantal, an attorney; Jacquelyn, a homemaker and mother and Adam, a college student who eventually became a junior executive within the Hale Hotel chain.

As the Generations storyline developed, Ruth urged Henry into enlisting the help of business mogul Martin Jackson, who eventually marketed the Marshall's ice cream nationwide. Ruth eventually became best friends with Martin's wife, Doreen Jackson had an affair with Adam and later became pregnant with his child, a secret she plotted to keep until the right moment. During the summer of 1989, the crooked Martin pulled a wool over Henry and Ruth's eyes when he secretly signs over Ruth's share of the Marshall's Ice Cream stock to Doreen.

The move proved to be so successful that Ruth was able to the buy the Whitmore mansion on the North Shore. Vivian argued with Ruth that owning that house wouldn't make her any whiter, and then she recieved a mysterious phone call warning her not to both moving into the Whitmore Estate, as she would "never live there". Then came the day that Ruth made enough of a rapprochement with Rebecca's daughter, Laura McCallum (Ruth and Laura had grown up together, but it wasn't a happy friendship) to bring her to the house to see the renovations under way and on the living room wall they found the words "Niggers Get Lost" spray painted in ugly letters! Devastated, Ruth tried to sweep the incident under the rug but Doreen arranged for Brian Price, a reporter from the Chicago Tribune to interview Ruth and expose the hypocrites who live in their neighborhood. While Ruth is furious over Doreen's betrayal of her trust, Doreen feels Ruth has an obligation to fight racism wherever it even if it exists in her own backyard! Unfortunately, the terrorizing tactic kept coming: rattlesnakes in the Marshall's furniture, a bomb at their gala housewarming party. When Henry and their family friend, Jason Craig, caught the bomber with the help of Chantal, his trail led to an apartment filled with all the literature and paraphernelia of hatred - against black, Jews, gays, etc.

Rebecca's long-missing husband, Peter Whitmore, had returned, and Vivian spent her days in horror of the secret that she and Ruth were keeping from the rest of the family: While Henry knew that Ruth was pregnant at the time of their marriage and that he wasn't the father; no one knew that the father was actually Peter! Peter had not been raised in wealth or privilege, and he and teenage Ruth were kindred spirits - so kindred that one night, when Ruth sang at Peter's jazz club against Vivian's wishes, Ruth and Peter conceived Chantal! Chantal herself did not know her true parentage, a secret that would blow the Marshall family to pieces when it finally got out!

During the last episodes of Generations, Peter asked Ruth to sing at the reopening of his nightclub, The Music Box, something that Doreen wanted to do herself. Unbeknownst to Ruth, Doreen had invested in the club and began pretending to be a shoulder to cry on for Henry, who was upset that Ruth was going to sing at the nightclub opening. Doreen began plotting to destroy Ruth and Henry's marriage by putting ideas into Henry and Vivian's minds about Ruth's rekindled friendship with Peter.

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