The Raging James
From Erin White
By Newton Ancarrow
Newton Ancarrow (1920-1991) was a boat builder who located his business on the south bank of the James River in Richmond in 1962. In 1965, he opened a large boat ramp for his business and for public use, and quickly discovered the river’s poor water quality. Ancarrow was enraged when oily, polluted water mixed with sewage coated his ramp and the bottom of his boats after a heavy rain. He began a crusade to force city, state, and federal authorities to clean up the James. Ancarrow’s Landing in the James River Park System is his original boat dock and was named in his honor.
In 1974, Ancarrow debuted The Raging James, his film on channelization in the James River. This technique was used along sections of the James from the mountains to Richmond to repair damage from the historic water flows of hurricanes Camille (1969) and Agnes (1972). In honor of the film, he was given the environmentalist of the year award by the Virginia Wildlife Federation in 1974.
To see more of Ancarrow’s pioneering documentation of the pre- and early years of the park system, visit the Ancarrow Wildflower Digital Archive.