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This Day (RIP Edition)

October 20th, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe · No Comments

On this day in 1698, fire destroyed the State House in Jamestown. Instead of rebuilding, the governor decided to just move the whole capital to nearby Middle Plantation, which was then renamed Williamsburg. RIP, old Virginia capitol.

On this day in 1862, twenty-three-year-old Anne Carter Lee, the daughter of Robert E. Lee and Mary Anna Randolph Custis, died at Jones’s Spring, North Carolina, probably of typhoid fever. Her mother was with her at her death. RIP, young Annie Lee.

On this day in 1881, U.S. Navy surgeon James M. Ambler, stranded with other members of the USS Jeannette in the Arctic Ocean for more than two years (!), recorded in his journal a farewell letter to his family. RIP, Dr. Ambler. May you have warmed up by now.

On this day in 1910, the state shut down the Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers after an embezzlement scandal. The black fraternal organization’s bank had represented the largest and most successful black business enterprise in the country dating back to 1881. (Just to twist the knife: the bank closing happened on the birthday of the Grand Fountain’s founder, William Washington Browne.) RIP, Grand Fountain.

And finally, on this day in 1966, Harry Flood Byrd Sr., who paid as he went and, when the opportunity arose, resisted massively, died of a brain tumor. RIP, Harry F. Byrd. You were the towering figure of twentieth-century Virginia politics, and may your greatest legacy be a failure: that children of all races and backgrounds find common ground in at least one place—a public school.

A version of this post was originally published on October 20, 2011.

PS: In the Cold Cold Night; or, images from Dr. James Ambler’s tragic adventure in the Arctic.

IMAGES: Harry F. Byrd reviewing the federal budget, 1958 (University of Virginia Special Collections); the True Reformers Building, as it looks today in Richmond (Matthew S. Gibson)

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