The cat in the hats

Dear Ace: Who is “Rives” of Rives Park?—Parker Nosey

Parker: In these uncertain political times, it’s kind of comforting to be reminded of Virginia’s—and Charlottesville’s—rich historical, you know, history. It’s also kind of comforting for Ace, on a personal level, when he’s able to dispense a morsel of his intelligence simply by reaching into his own bank of knowledge and pulling out your answer, as opposed to researching it. (Ace hates starting from scratch when researching; the process goes slower than a turtle in a sack race.)

That’s why, upon receiving your question, Ace was thrilled to already have a solid answer with which to craft the glorious collection of words before you. The answer, my friend, is William Cabell Rives.

Rives was a Nelson County native who, in 1819, married Judith Page Walker, the heir to an Albemarle estate named Castle Hill. It was there that Rives penned a three-part biography of James Madison entitled The Life and Times of James Madison. You see, William and James were quite good friends, as were Dolley and Judith. One might assume, though this certainly has nothing to do with the history of Rives Park, that the two couples may have had a few double dates, no? (This is pure speculation, of course, but as Ace is a romantic, and it was the Romantic era, he draws his own conclusions.)

In addition to his literary talents, Rives represented Albemarle in the state legislature for three terms, served in Congress, and was a three-time state senator. He served on UVA’s Board of Visitors for 15 years, and was president of the Virginia Historical Society. Plus, from 1829-1932 and 1849-1853, he acted as a Minister to France.

Basically, Rives wore many hats. Not literally, perhaps, since Judith was known as somewhat of a fashion plate (who knows what she would have deemed apropos for Bill and, as far as Ace is concerned, who cares?), but there’s no denying the man had many interests.

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 19 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to

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