Alexander Robey Shepherd: The Man Who Built the Nation’s Capital

The recently released biography is by Arlington author John Richardson.

It took Alexander “Boss” Shepherd just three years to forever transform our nation’s capital by paving roads, building sewers and installing gaslights in the 1870s, during the city’s so-called “Gilded Age.” John Richardson, a past president of the Arlington Historical Society, was so intrigued by Shepherd’s impact on Washington, D.C., that he decided to write a full-length biography about the powerful and controversial civic leader.

But the biography didn’t materialize quite as fast as Shepherd’s public works projects. Though the book idea first arose in 1983, Richardson’s aspirations of authorship were stalled by other priorities (at the time, he was working overseas for the CIA). He finally saw Alexander Robey Shepherd: The Man Who Built the Nation’s Capital (Ohio University Press) hit the bookstores in October.

Richardson, who lives in Tara Leeway Heights, says he already has an idea for his next history tome. “I’ve really gotten hooked on retrocession,” he says, referring to the legislation that returned Arlington County from Washington to the state of Virginia. “We’re sitting in what was part of the nation’s capital until 1847.” This time around, he vows, “it won’t take me 30-plus years” to write it.

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Categories: Books