First Clerk Is Back in Place at County Courthouse
by KRISTEN ARMSTRONG, Staff Writer
|In 1990, a fire in the old
Arlington County Courthouse destroyed a large portrait of George H.
Rucker that had been prominently displayed there.
But Rucker - a man whose vision led to the creation of some of Arlington's most important residential and commercial communities - is now back, gazing out over a county that has changed vastly since he helped to run it.
Last year, the real estate company Rucker cofounded (Geo. H. Rucker Realty Corp.) decided to have a new portrait created as part of its 100th anniversary celebration. The new portrait will hang in the Clerk of the Circuit Court's office.
Michael Rucker, chairman of the board of the Geo. H. Rucker Realty Corp., presented the replacement to Clerk of Court David Bell at a dedication ceremony held Aug. 10 at the Arlington County Judicial Center.
“It is really does mean a great deal to this court and my office, and to all the people who work in this courthouse, to have a portrait of the first clerk,” Bell said. “I assure you it will hold a very prominent place.”
George Rucker was elected Clerk of the Court in 1898, and held the post until his unexpected death in 1919.
In 1906, the family real estate business was started - operated by Rucker and two brothers-in-law, Ashton Jones and N.A. Rees. Rucker spent part of each day at his clerk's duties, and part at his nearby private office.
At the time, modern-day Arlington was known as Alexandria County. The name was changed by the General Assembly in 1920.
Rucker also served as chairman of the county's draft board during World War I, and was chairman of the Virginia Agricultural Council of Safety for the county from 1917-19.
At the Aug. 10 ceremony, Michael Rucker also presented two framed photographs of the buildings George Rucker used for his real estate business. The buildings were located on the site of the present judicial center on North Courthouse Road.
Bell remarked that it was ironic that the 1990 fire that destroyed Rucker's portrait essentially was the catalyst for building the current judicial center, which resulted in the demolition of the Rucker firm's headquarters. The company is now headquartered in Oakton, but still has business interests in Arlington, 100 years after its founding in the county.
In May, the Arlington library system and Arlington Chamber of Commerce hosted a forum to discuss the impact of the Rucker family on the county's growth.
All told, the family business “probably made the most significant contributions to this community over time” of any Arlington developer, Arlington Chamber of Commerce president Richard Doud said at the forum.
Among the projects the Rucker firm was responsible for: Ashton Heights, Lee Heights, Cherrydale, Tara-Leeway Heights, Woodlawn Village, Country Club Hills, Parkington (now Ballston), the Westover Shopping Center and a host of buildings that housed Sears stores.
The Rucker company also played a major role in bringing the Hecht Co. to Arlington.
A number of George Rucker's descendents were present at the dedication ceremony for the portrait, including his 90-year-old granddaughter Betty Allen, who recalled the hill where her grandfather worked as the “best sledding hill in the world.”
Also in attendance were Rucker's great-granddaughters Elizabeth Allen Cuthbert and Suzanne Stone Brannan and his great-niece Sabrina Rucker, as well as Circuit Court judges William Newman, Benjamin Kendrick and Joanne Alper.
Clerk of the Circuit Court David Bell and Michael Rucker, chairman of the Geo. H. Rucker Realty Corp., unveil a portrait of George H. Rucker at the Arlington County Judicial Center on Aug. 10.
(Photo by Kristen Armstrong)