Author Selden Richardson is Final RWC Viewpoints Speaker

Historianwrites and lectures about Richmond’s architecture and history

selden richardson 121200 02131copy 245It was a broken leg that lead Selden Richardson to explore a 1930s crime wave in his Richmond hometown. When hisfather was a boy, he was prone to broken bones. A Richmond doctor removing young George Richardson’s cast commented that he had just come from the State Penitentiary where he removed a prisoner’s cast so he could be taken to the electric chair.

Thus, George Richardson became a local legend among friends and family. His son, Selden, will discuss how this story inspired his latest book, “Tri-State Gang in Richmond: Murder and Robbery in the Great Depression,” as the final Viewpoints speaker at Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury on June 5.

Walter Legenza was the death row inmate the doctor was referencing. Legenza and Robert Mais were among a group of criminals called the Tri-State Gang who spread their robbery and murder operations from Philadelphia to Baltimore and Richmond, “wreaking bloody havoc and brutally eliminating those who knew too much about their heists,” according to Selden Richardson.

“I will talk about how events of national fame took place in such a backwater like Richmond,” Richardson said. “When three members of the Tri-State Gang escaped from Richmond City Jail in 1934, residents were astonished that this big city crime had come to their little town.”

Book Cover ColorIn the book, Richardson explores not only the crimes and adventures of this group of Philadelphia gangsters that came to Virginia, but also the trends in crime fighting and society that eventually overcame these professional criminals. It is a tale with twists, gun battles, robberies and one of the greatest manhunts in Virginia history.

A Richmond native, Richardson writes and lectures about the city's architecture and history. He holds master's degrees from Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond and is the former archivist for Architectural Records at the Library of Virginia, where he worked for eight years.

Richardson, who also wrote “Built by Blacks: African American Architecture and Neighborhoods in Richmond,” lives in Richmond with his wife, Karri, their daughter, Lelia, and golden retriever, Wyatt. They are part-time residents of Weems.

Richardson is the fourth and final speaker in RWC’s Viewpoints series, which features experts on a wide range of topics of current interest. This free presentation will begin at 11 a.m. in the Chesapeake Center Auditorium on RWC’s campus, 132 Lancaster Dr., Irvington.

Reservations for the June 5 event will begin on May 22 by calling RWC at 438-4000. Attendees are invited to a complimentary luncheon afterwards. RWC honors reservations in the order received.

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