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Kentucky's Great Statesman: Living History at McNeill

George McGee portrays Henry Clay at McNeill Elementary.

A Kentuckian whose political genius made him one of the greatest statesmen of the 19th century lived again Wednesday at McNeill Elementary. The Kentucky Chautauqua presented George McGee in an interactive and compelling living history portrayal of Henry Clay (1777–1852) to fourth and fifth grade students.

Despite never quite achieving his dearest ambition, the presidency, Henry Clay made an indelible mark on the history of his country, which he served as a senator, speaker of the house and secretary of state. Born and educated in Virginia, Clay moved to Kentucky and set up a law practice in Lexington in 1797. Elected to the state legislature in 1803, he won a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives in 1811.

For the next 40 years, he was a major player on the national political scene, winning fame as the Great Compromiser. Slavery posed a large political and personal quandary for Clay. A slaveholder himself, he advocated gradual emancipation and colonization in Africa. In Congress, he opposed extension of slavery into the new western states. Clay died in Washington in 1852 and is buried in Lexington Cemetery.

McGee, of Georgetown, is director of theater at Georgetown College and a veteran actor who has worked on the stage, in films, and on network television. He has also portrayed Elijah Craig for Kentucky Chautauqua.

Kentucky Chautauqua is an exclusive presentation of the Kentucky Humanities Council, Inc. with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and from: Christina Lee Brown, the Brown-Forman Corporation, the Carson-Myre Charitable Foundation, the Cralle Foundation, the Elsa Heisel Sule Foundation, Lindsey Wilson College, Morehead State University, Paducah Bank, PNC, and Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America, Inc.

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