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McClenahan Book Reveals Civil City

McClenahan Book Reveals Civil City

What she does want is the singular unrepeatable experience of signing her first book. She’ll have it soon enough. McClenahan’s inaugural book signing will take place Oct. 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. at a yet-to-be-determined site at the University of Richmond.

Already the date is marked on UR President William Cooper’s personal calendar, says university spokesman Brian Eckert.

The preservation activist and civic leader has written a book called “Southern Civility: Recollections of My Early Life,” edited and published by longtime friend, Carter McDowell. The 125-page book is a memoir, McDowell says, of McClenahan’s life in Richmond as a young woman during the ’20s and ’30s, just before she and Cheek moved to Baltimore where he became director the Baltimore Museum of Fine Arts.

“There’s a lot of humor and detail,” McDowell says. “It sounds just like her.”

“Southern Civility” came about when McDowell and McClenahan — who formed an enduring friendship forging the Better Housing Coalition — decided to trace an oral history of McClenahan’s life. To McDowell’s surprise, she learned her friend had a carefully preserved manuscript she had written years before. Then, she says, the two turned up “all these wonderful pictures taken by Tony Dementi,” the well-respected Richmond photographer, and they seemed the perfect companion to the text. McDowell edited and published the book; she hired the Styger Group to design and market it.

A thousand copies have been printed, McDowell says, by phone from Novia Scotia where she’s been vacationing, unable to see the finished product. She says she can’t wait to get home and celebrate the completion of the project with McClenahan.

The book will be available at the Virginia Historical Society, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, St. Catherine’s School and Book People, McDowell says. As for McClenahan: “She’s thrilled,” McDowell says, adding: “She’s seen a mock-up but I can’t wait to put it in her hand.” — Brandon Walters

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