I am a fan — Clay Jenkinson — Thomas Jefferson Scholar

April 13 marks the 274th birthday of Thomas Jefferson and that got me thinking of my friend Clay Jenkinson. Clay is a Thomas Jefferson scholar and personifies Thomas Jefferson himself on the program The Thomas Jefferson Hour.

When I first moved to Colorado Springs in 1994, I started listening to KRCC, the local NPR station, and on the weekends I regularly listened to the Thomas Jefferson Hour. As a history buff, and a Virginia native, I was immediately drawn to the conversations with America’s third president on timely topics. They were mind-opening. Halfway through these shows Clay shed his presidential hat and discussed the topics with the understanding that Jefferson could not have known all the changes in the last two hundred plus years in this nation.

I thought I knew a lot about Thomas Jefferson, as I came from Virginia, but I quickly learned I didn’t know squat. These weekly shows just grew my thirst for more historical knowledge.

Over these years Clay Jenkinson gave several talks in Colorado Springs, not only as Thomas Jefferson, but also as Teddy Roosevelt. His appearances were very popular in this town. I never had the pleasure of seeing his appearances in person but caught them on the local PBS station.

One day, I happened across a blog post Clay wrote, not about Jefferson but about how annoying it was that people deplaning just stop right at the top of the jet-bridge to assess where to go next. It was witty and pithy. I couldn’t stop myself. I had to write him and tell him that as a regular traveler myself, I too found inexperienced, and inconsiderate, travelers quite frustrating.

That one email sparked a nice series of correspondence between the two of us for a good period of time. And like Jefferson, his words, always helped me raise my intellectual game. It was so nice to have a correspondence relationship like that. While I have not had the pleasure of these conversations in some time, I remember them fondly and still follow his work with appreciation and admiration.

This brief time getting to know Clay Jenkinson helped me know myself better and challenged me to read more, research answers, and participate in this republic. I appreciate all that and Clay, I thank you.

Clay Jenkinson, I am a fan.

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