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History

New book on Lewis Ginter is a fictionalized take on his real-world love affair with a younger man

Ginter’s naming of a street that intersects Hermitage Road in the Lakeside neighborhood “Pope” was perhaps the only visible sign of his affection during his living years.

RVAHub Staff

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Lewis Ginter has often been referenced as “the greatest Richmonder of all time.” That attribution speaks to the man’s accomplishments, having built a thriving Tobacco business after the Civil War and set the Virginia Economy on a path toward prosperity and acclaim for decades to come. Among his ‘firsts’ were the introduction of Trading Cards, the employment of women, and a cooperative mindset for local suppliers to reduce costs for both parties.

His other achievements included several infrastructure projects that created neighborhoods, parks, and churches. He was the initial investor in what became Virginia Power, and his trolley system was the first continually operating public transport of its kind in North America. He financed and built the only five-star hotel in Richmond: The Jefferson. He named it for his childhood idol.

Despite all of his successes, he refused to have any statues of himself and would not allow his name to be used for any of his projects. During his lifetime, there were no streets, buildings, neighborhoods, or parks named for him. His one tribute was the naming of a street that intersects Hermitage Road in the Lakeside neighborhood: Pope.

This simple gesture is the only public indication that Lewis was in fact head over heels in love with a younger man. After having met John Pope in Manhattan, Lewis expended a lot of effort to find the young man and convince the teenager’s family to allow John a chance of success in Richmond. From the time they connected as colleagues, they were also beginning a decades-long romantic ‘friendship’ that we now understand as love.

A new local book series is hoping to shed light on some of his more personal details. Ginter’s Pope, local author John Musgrove’s first novel, is a detailed accounting of their relationship. While it is Historical Fiction, the saga is based on the true-life events that made their love story a touching, heartbreaking tale of two men that loved one another in a time when there were no words for such a relationship. This is book one in the Reticent Richmond series.

This book is the first in a planned series of four. The next volume, Mary’s Grace will expand upon Grace Arents (Ginter’s Niece and heir) and her girlfriend, Mary Garland Smith. Book three, Garland’s Legacy details the forty years of patronage that Garland lavished on Richmond. The last book, George’s Race, tells the story of George Arents, a racecar driver that left his wife for a man that stole his heart on the racetrack. All are based on real-life people, events, and sagas from the same family.

The author, John Musgrove, is an information security analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. He has graduated five times from VCU, holding a BS and MS in Information Systems, and Post Baccalaureate Certificates in Instructional Technology, Nonprofit Management, and Geospatial Information Systems. He served as a Navy Corpsman, supporting the Marine Corps and did a tour of duty for Desert Storm. 

Ginter’s Pope is available through most retailers in paperback, eBook, and audiobook formats. Click here to learn more.

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