US tobacco and transport businessman
Thomas Fortune Ryan (1851 -1928). Mr. Ryan was a Nelson County Virginia native who became spectacularly successful as a Wall Street financier in New York. Thomas Fortune Ryan became the wealthiest native-born Southerner of his generation with a net worth of over $130 million. His business interests embraced the Manhattan transit system, the American Tobacco Company, banking, the Equitable Life Assurance, the Thompson Sub-Machine Gun, railroads, Mexican rubber plantations and diamond mines in the Belgian Congo.
Thomas Fortune Ryan was also prominent as an international art collector, focusing especially on Renaissance and contemporary masterpieces. Ryan was an early patron of the French sculptor Rodin. Wall paintings by the French-Canadian artist M. Suzor-Cote adorn the Breakfast Room of the Oak Ridge Mansion.
As a generous Catholic philanthropist, Thomas Fortune Ryan endowed Sacred Heart Cathedral in Richmond, Virginia and St. Jean de Baptiste in New York City, as well as funding churches, schools, and hospitals throughout Nelson Country. With properties on Fifth Avenue, at Suffern, New York and in Washington, D. C., Oak Ridge was nevertheless Thomas Fortune Ryan’s favorite residence.