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An Evening With
Henry Clay
Kentucky’s Greatest Statesmen

April 3, 2014

Photos by Jim Cummings

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Henry Clay (1777-1852) was known as Kentucky’s Greatest Statesman and the country’s Great Compromiser. George McGee of Georgetown College portrays Clay for The Kentucky Humanities Council’s Chautaqua performers. McGee’s performance not only shed light on the life of Clay, but involved the audience in every step of the way. Clay ran for President 3 times and was defeated each time. Born during the early years of the American Revolution Clay grew up in Virginia. After studying law he passed his examination at the age of 20. He followed his family to Kentucky where he began to practice law. It was a short journey into politics.

 Each April, the Living History Group, The Painted Stone Settlers offer a free performance to the public. This year they chose Henry Clay. The group’s primary event is a re-enactment of the Long Run Massacre which happened in the area in September of 1781. Read more at www.paintedstonesettlers.org

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Henry Clay - The Great Compromiser

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by Helen McKinney

For more than 40 years, Henry Clay (1777-1852) was a major player on the national political scene. He is known to many as a skilled orator and the creator of the Compromise of 1850. His personal life was full of important events: duels, elections, family and friends. The life of this complex man will be examined through a Kentucky Humanities Council sponsored program, Henry Clay, Kentucky’s Greatest Statesman, on Thursday, April 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Hudson Room of the Shelby County Public Library.

Clay

“I try to tell the story of Clay by re-creating (with help from the audience) some of the important events in his life,” said George McGee, the man responsible for bringing Clay to life for this program. McGee teaches theater at Georgetown College, where he took a sabbatical in 1994 to research and write the script for his program. McGee holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theatre from Illinois Wesleyan University and a Masters of Fine Art in Acting/Directing from Florida Atlantic University.

McGee chose to portray Clay because of a physical resemblance to the great statesman. For primary research materials, he referred to the many books that have been written about Clay. Born in Hanover County, Virginia, Clay was an American lawyer, politician and skilled orator who represented Kentucky in both the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Clay served three different terms as Speaker of the House of Representatives and was Secretary of State from 1825 to 1829. Three times he lost his campaign for the Presidency: 1824, 1832 and 1844.

Clay was the seventh of nine children born to the Reverend John Clay and Elizabeth Hudson Clay. His father was a Baptist minister nicknamed "Sir John," who died four years after Clay was born. Henry Clay was a second cousin of Cassius Marcellus Clay, who became an abolitionist in Kentucky.

His mother remarried Capt. Henry Watkins, who moved the family to Richmond, Virginia. Clay eventually made his way to Kentucky where he married Lucretia Hart and reared eleven children while continuing his political career.

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See the Newsreel of Henry Clay

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