Part 6

100 Movers And Shapers

Cabell Luck
(1902-1985), b. Ashland
and Beattie C. Luck
(1904-1979), b. Ashland
For many years, from 1946 until they sold the business in the early ’70s, these brothers and Hanover County dairymen operated the Clover Room Restaurant on West Broad Street. It was immensely popular with a cross section of Richmonders – famous for its ice cream, “frosteds” (its version of a milkshake) and club sandwiches. The knotty-pine-paneled walls were hung with faded and yellowing photos of such Virginia attractions as Jamestown and Luray Caverns. On any given evening, a table of teen-agers in formal dance attire would be seated across from a graying bridge club in hats; they would be next to a large family attired in madras shirts and Bermuda shorts. The fresh-faced young men who scooped ice cream wore white paper hats. It was an institution. Cabell and Beattie’s brother, Charles S. Luck, Jr., founded Luck Quarry, forerunner of Luck Stone Corporation.

Oliver Hill Sr.
(1907- ) b. Richmond
Decades before Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks, living civil-rights legend Oliver Hill was fighting racial injustice in the South with the law as his sword. A Howard law school grad, he’s best known for assisting future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in arguing the landmark Brown vs. State Board of Education – the 1954 Supreme Court decision that ended legal segregation in public schools. In 1948, Hill became the first black elected to City Council since Reconstruction. A mentor to state Sen. Henry Marsh, who became Richmond’s first black mayor, the nonagenarian Hill is the senior partner in Hill, Tucker & Marsh. In 1997, the city named its juvenile justice courthouse for Hill and the Black History Museum unveiled a bust of him created by Paul DiPasquale, sculptor of the Arthur Ashe Monument.

Paul Mellon
(1907-1999) b. Pittsburgh, Pa.
An aristocrat among aristocrats, Upperville resident Paul Mellon served on the board of trustees of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts from 1938 to 1979. He was a great benefactor of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and the Virginia Museum was crestfallen when his esteemed collection of British art was given to Yale University. But for much of his adult life he did great things for the VMFA. In 1954, he contributed the theater wing. His French impressionist paintings beautifully fill a wing he donated in 1984 (with Sydney and Frances Lewis). Upon his death earlier this year, both the museum and the nearby Virginia Historical Society were generously remembered with multimillion-dollar bequests.

Lewis Powell
(1907-1998) b. Suffolk
Reluctant to accept a nomination to the Supreme Court, Lewis Powell put duty before desire and became one of the most influential justices in the 1970s and ’80s, acting as the Court’s ideological center in handing down some 3,000 decisions. It was massive resistance to desegregation that spiked his reputation here: As chairman of the Richmond School Board, Lewis was part of a drawn-out process to integrate the public schools and drew criticism for his silence and perceived hesitance on this issue. He worked from within a political establishment that valued Old South traditions, yet later gave the oath of office when L. Douglas Wilder was sworn in as the nation’s first elected African-American governor.

Eddie Weaver
(1907- ) b. Catasauqua, Pa.
Many Richmonders can’t help but think of musical legend Eddie Weaver every time they hear an organ. Although he trained as a church organist at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., Weaver always dreamed of playing the organ in a movie theater.

In 1937, Weaver’s dream came true when he came to Richmond to play the Mighty Wurlitzer at Loew’s movie palace on East Grace Street (now the Carpenter Center). In 1941, Weaver added a daily gig at the Miller & Rhoads tea room during his lunch break. The gig lasted 49 years. From 1963 to 1983, Weaver was also the house organist at the Byrd Theatre.

Samuel S. Wurtzel
(1907-1985) b. Seabright, N.J.
From a tiny store at 703 W. Broad St. called Ward’s TV, Samuel S. Wurtzel began one of the nation’s largest electronic and appliance retailers – Circuit City.

Wurtzel came to Richmond in 1949 and founded Wards and Co. Inc., now called Circuit Stores Inc. His store was one of the first in Richmond to sell television sets and later the first retail outlet in the nation to install a punch card data processing system.

Leslie Cheek Jr.
(1908-1992) b. Nashville, Tenn.
Leslie Cheek was a man of many talents, exquisite taste and meticulous attention to detail. After teaching at William & Mary (where he established the fine arts department) and serving as director of the Baltimore Museum of Fine Arts, in 1948 he came to Richmond and began a 20-year tenure as director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The museum was young and the collection small, but he was ingenious in presenting art and creative in presenting opening nights. He always ensured that good design went into everything from publications to the interior decor of the museum. No one in 20th-century Richmond possessed more style than Cheek – and he had a major aesthetic platform on which to perform. What a showman! He was an “imagineer” before Disney ever invented the word.

Julien Binford III
(1909-1997) b. Powhatan
He worked on murals for the Works Progress Administration and accomplished 37 commissions for that Depression-era Federal agency. Today, Julien Binford’s large paintings can be found in the library at Thomas Jefferson High School and in the lobby of the old Library of Virginia. His subjects were real people – neighbors who lived near his great stone studio in rural Powhatan. During World War II, he was commissioned to paint a series of scenes of New York harbor at wartime. Throughout his career, his work exhibited a simplicity and elegance. Realistic yes, but never an unnecessary brushstroke.

David Silvette
(1909-1992) b. Pittsburgh, Pa.
He painted murals for public buildings during the Depression, portraits of presidential cabinet members and Virginia governors. It’s difficult to walk into a Richmond corporate boardroom or church office without being confronted by David Silvette’s work. He usually gave his subjects rosy cheeks. He also painted the only likeness from life of F. Scott Fitzgerald; it now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. But by 1973 he’d had enough of clients making suggestions. He went to court to challenge the State Art Commission’s right to censor an artists’ work in mid-stream – a little darker there, a warmer smile there. He ultimately lost his arguments.

E. Claiborne Robins Sr.
(1910-1995) b. Richmond
E. Claiborne Robins took the modest drug company his grandfather founded and expanded it to a billion-dollar corporation, A.H. Robins. In 1969, he asked what it would take to transform his alma mater, the University of Richmond, into a great university. A $50 million gift was forthcoming, one of the largest in the history of higher education. A statue of Robins was unveiled in April at the University of Richmond. The Robins family continues to set a high standard for giving here. Recent major gifts from Robins’ widow, Lora, and his son, E. Claiborne Jr. have included the new north wing to Virginia Historical Society and the E. Claiborne Robins visitor center at the Lewis Ginter Botanical


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