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Historical interpreter Bill Barker will bring Thomas Jefferson to life

jeffHistorical scholar Bill Barker is praised as the quintessential Thomas Jefferson – an interpreter who not only embodies the third president but becomes him.

“Meeting Barker is as close as you can get to meeting Thomas Jefferson,” wrote one reviewer. “His resemblance to Jefferson is uncanny, and his knowledge of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution is second to none.”

Southeast Texans will have a chance to meet Barker/Jefferson on Tuesday, Oct. 16, when Lamar University presents “An Evening with Thomas Jefferson on the American Presidency.” The presentation will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Dr. Richard L. Price Auditorium of the John Gray Center, 855 E. Jim Gilligan Way in Beaumont.

A student session is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, in the University Theatre, on MLK Jr. Parkway off Lavaca.

The College of Arts and Sciences and Department of History are sponsoring the events, which are open to the public without charge.  The program is made possible in part by a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Barker, who is associated with Colonial Williamsburg, will examine the office of the president in historical perspective through his portrayal of Jefferson. For more than 25 years, Barker has dedicated his life to educating the public about Jefferson – his ideas, life and legacy.

As Jefferson, Barker has appeared on PBS, CNN, the History Channel and C-SPAN, as well as at the White House, the Palace of Versailles, France, and even in Las Vegas. He has been featured in such magazines as Time, People, Atlantic, Southern Living and Reader’s Digest.

“Because 2012 is an election year, his presentation will be especially appropriate,” said Mary Scheer, chair of Lamar’s Department of History. “Although Barker portrays Thomas Jefferson as president from 1800-1808, many of his topics still resonate today. These include civil liberty, representative government, political parties, the Bill of Rights, presidential power and the relation among the three branches of government.

“The presidential campaign of 1800 was one of the most bitter in U.S. history, and Barker, as Jefferson will explain how negative campaigning, partisan politics and contested elections have been part of our political system since the early days of the Republic,” Scheer said.

Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, tied with Aaron Burr in the electoral college. The House of Representatives decided the election, selecting Jefferson as president and Burr as vice president. The incumbent, John Adams, came in third.

Barker was born and raised in Philadelphia, and his interest and knowledge about Thomas Jefferson is both broad and deep, dating to his youth. Barker interprets Jefferson without using notes and leaves the audience with the distinct impression they are in the presence of one of the founding fathers.

Barker earned a bachelor of arts in history from Villanova University and also attended the University of Pennsylvania. Attracted to the stage, he became a professional actor, often cast as Jefferson in many venues, including the musical “1776” – a natural because he is of the same height, weight and general appearance as Jefferson.

He has studied and portrayed Jefferson at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, where he assists in the development of Jefferson programs. Through his historic presentations, he not only embodies Jefferson, but he also becomes the third president through his first-person interpretation of Jefferson and his times.

Call(409) 880-8511 for additional information.