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1800s D.C. Governor Returning to Greatness

Cast-Aside Statue Gets New Home

By John F. Kelly and Michele Clock
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, January 2, 2005; Page C05

D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) announced yesterday that the eight-foot bronze statue of a former governor of the District will soon be returned to its "rightful location," outside the John A. Wilson Building.

The statue of Alexander Robey "Boss" Shepherd, D.C. governor from 1872 to 1874 and best known for his public works improvements and civil rights record, was moved in 1979 during the development of Freedom Plaza.

Bill Brown, left, president of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia, and council member Jack Evans meet at the Wilson Building to announce the statue's future placement there. (Michael Temchine For The Washington Post)

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It ended up near the Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant. Photographs of the statue lying on its side in the mud there distressed local history buffs.

Yesterday, about two dozen members of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia gathered outside the Wilson Building to celebrate the announcement.

The group, which works to preserve and promote the city's heritage, has been pushing for more than a decade to return the statue to a place of prominence in the city, namely in front of the Wilson Building.

"I don't know what was harder," Evans said, "getting baseball here or getting Boss Shepherd back."

Bill Rice, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation, said that a concrete pad to support the statue will be poured in the next few days, weather permitting. The statue should be in place sometime this month, he said.

A construction company is donating its services to move the statue. The Oldest Inhabitants agreed to pay for its cleaning.

Shepherd was a D.C. City Council member from 1861 to 1871 and governor from 1872 to 1874. As governor, he oversaw the paving of many city streets, the installation of sewage pipes and the removal of unsightly railroad tracks. His public works projects modernized the city, but he also spent more than double his budget. He was investigated for his spending and accused of corruption but was never charged with a crime.

Shepherd also opposed segregation and pushed for emancipation, the integration of public schools and women's voting rights. He was also an early advocate for D.C. home rule.

"[The District] was a backwater village," said Nelson Rimensnyder, historian for the Oldest Inhabitants. "None of the streets were paved . . . the place stunk. Congress was only here a few months out of the year. He really got Congress interested in the city."

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