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.
“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.