Today is the birthday of Alexander Robey Shepherd (1835–1902). Do you know who that is? Well, if not, now you will. My daughter and I are finishing up a lesson block on Local History and Geography, which has ranged from visiting and mapping our little neighborhood creeks (to follow how they connect to the Potomac River and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic) to learning about the prehistory and history of the bit of land upon which we now perch, grow strawberries, and walk the dog.
Among the colorful characters we have studied is the above-named Shepherd, nicknamed “Boss” Shepherd, who served on the Bureau of Public Works, and as governor, in the days when Washington, DC had governors. Shepherd was a powerful and controversial fellow who didn’t sit around waiting for something to be approved by some old committee or the U.S. Congress, and he took it upon himself to make huge improvements in the city’s infrastructure. He was also progressive for his day, promoting universal suffrage and school integration. Shepherd was eventually removed from office, and his statue was put in storage as an embarrassing reminder of the political corruption from which our fair city has henceforth been free… Anyway. Shepherd’s reputation has recently been rehabilitated and his statue is back in front of DC’s Wilson Building, where you can stand today and eat a cupcake in his honor.