'Thomas Jefferson' Coming To Waco June 17

  • News Photo 1998
    Bill Barker as "Thomas Jefferson"
  • News Photo 1997
    Bill Barker as "Thomas Jefferson"
  • News Photo 1996
    Bill Barker as "Thomas Jefferson"
June 8, 2004

by Lori Scott Fogleman

Bill Barker, who portrays Thomas Jefferson at Colonial Williamsburg, will give a free public presentation from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, June 17, in the Mabee Theatre of Baylor University's Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center. Seating will be on a first-come, first-serve basis, and doors will close promptly at 7 p.m.

Barker will be on the Baylor campus participating in Crossroads in American History a joint project between the School of Education and the department of history to provide high-quality professional development for social studies and history teachers in seven Central Texas school districts. Barker's visit will be one on the highlights of the summer teaching institute, which is supported by a three-year federal "Teaching American History" grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Barker has been interested in Jefferson since his childhood and has researched the American world Jefferson knew with an interest in the role the man played and continues to play in American history. Baylor history professor Julie Anne Sweet said Barker's ability to "become" Thomas Jefferson will give teachers and audience members the opportunity to interact with a founding father on a level rarely experienced outside of living history museums.

"Barker's knowledge of Jefferson is extensive and sometimes even a little scary," Sweet said. "He replaces not just the appearance of the man but his mannerisms, his hobbies, even his handwriting. His visit will truly be a memorable event for all who attend."

With the same height, weight and general appearance as the man who has so long interested him, Barker first came to Colonial Williamsburg in 1993 to perform as Jefferson in a film to honor Ambassador and Mrs. Walter H. Annenberg. For more than 20 years, he has appeared as Jefferson and assists in the development of further Jefferson programs for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

A graduate of Villanova University, Barker became a professional actor, director and producer, and has been cast as Jefferson in many different venues, including the musical "1776." He has performed as Jefferson at the White House, the Palace of Versailles and throughout the United States, Great Britain and France. He has been featured as Jefferson in several magazines, including TIME, People, Atlantic, Philadelphia, Southern Living, Reader's Digest and the Colonial Williamsburg Journal. He also has appeared as Jefferson in programs on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, The History Channel and C-SPAN.

What can Central Texans learn from Thomas Jefferson?

"We can learn from him...that once an apostle of liberty lived a notably elevated life, an extraordinarily rich, perennially interesting, endlessly generous, and ceaselessly useful life, in a society which he himself had made more democratic," said historian and Jefferson biographer Dumas Malone. "His faith is the most admirable thing about him and his most enduring legacy -- his faith in human beings and in the human mind. To all those who cherish freedom and abhor tyranny in any form he is an abiding symbol of the hope that springs eternal."

For more information about Barker's visit, contact Sweet at (254) 710-6303 or Julie_Sweet@baylor.edu. For more information about the summer teaching institute, contact Dr. Wes Null, project director for the Teaching American History grant, at (254) 710-6120 or Wesley_Null@baylor.edu.

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