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The Dooleys of Richmond

An Irish Immigrant Family in the Old and New South
Mary Lynn Bayliss

BUY Cloth · 328 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813939988 · $34.95 · May 2017
BUY Ebook · 328 pp. · ISBN 9780813939995 · $34.95 · May 2017

The Dooleys of Richmond is the biography of two generations of a dynamic and philanthropic immigrant family in the urban South. While most Irish Catholic immigrants who poured into the region in the nineteenth century were poor and illiterate, John and Sarah Dooley were affluent and well educated. They brought sophistication and capital to Virginia, where John established one of the largest hat manufacturing companies in the United States. Noted for their business acumen and community service, the Dooleys became leaders in business, education, culture, and politics in Virginia. A bellwether of the South during these tumultuous times, the Dooleys' fortunes would rise and fall and rise again.

Mary Lynn Bayliss recounts the family’s history during their prosperous antebellum years, John and his sons’ service in the Confederate army, John’s exploits as leader of the Richmond Ambulance Committee, and the loss of the entire Dooley retail and manufacturing operations during the final days of the Civil War. After the war the Dooleys’ son James, a leading Richmond lawyer and philanthropist, devoted half a century to developing railroad networks across the United States, and became a key figure in the industrialization of the New South. He and his wife, Sallie, built Maymont, the famed Gilded Age estate that remains a major attraction in Richmond. The story of the Dooleys is a fascinating window on southern society and the people who shaped its grand and turbulent history.


If now little remembered, the Dooley family bestrode Richmond after the Civil War and built it into a powerhouse of the New South. Perhaps the leading entrepreneur of the city, James Dooley left his mark in real estate, banking, and railroads far beyond Virginia. By the early twentieth century, he and his wife, Sallie, ranked among the leading philanthropists of the capital, whose many charities still reflect their generosity a century later. With a deep command of sources and an engaging style, Mary Lynn Bayliss restores this enterprising and fascinating Irish immigrant family to its rightful place in the pantheon of builders of modern Richmond.

Nelson D. Lankford, author of Cry Havoc! The Crooked Road to Civil War, 1861

Mary Lynn Bayliss has given us a lively telling of the little-known story of an Irish Catholic family that played a significant part in the history of Richmond, Virginia, before, during, and after the Civil War. Bayliss captures both the dramatic public events and the emotions of private life in this joint biography of John Dooley and James Dooley, father and son, and their families.

John T. Kneebone, Virginia Commonwealth University, author of Southern Liberal Journalists and the Issue of Race, 1920–1944

A well-researched and deeply informative work....When asked, a friend who recently read The Dooleys of Richmond told me that his take-away was this: ‘They looked after their family and they looked after Richmond.’ Indeed they did. And thanks to Mary Lynn Bayliss, it is an inspiring story.

Style Weekly (Richmond)

Author Mary Lynn Bayliss has pulled back the curtains to reveal the fascinating stories of the Dooleys in her new book, The Dooleys of Richmond.... Now, after years of painstaking tracking down documents that survived, she is able to share the fascinating account of one family’s contributions to the re-growth of post-bellum Richmond and the South.

River City Magazine (Richmond)

Bayliss has spent decades combing through newspaper archives, census records, and the Dooley family library to put together this detailed history.

Catherine Komp · Virginia Currents Radio Show

A richly detailed portrait of one of Richmond’s most influential families... a captivating, made-for-the-silver screen tale involving immigration, war, and vast fortunes gained and lost.

The Goochland Gazette

About the Author(s): 

Mary Lynn Bayliss, a writer and lecturer, has published work in Virginia Cavalcade, the Richmond Quarterly, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, and Encyclopedia Virginia.

University of Virginia Press

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