By Roberta Sarver
Quiz: Which president’s likeness is depicted on the $2 bill? How about the nickel? (Hint: he is carved on Mount Rushmore.) If you guessed Thomas Jefferson, you were correct.
During the month of February, we traditionally honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. My last column featured Theodore Roosevelt. Today we highlight Thomas Jefferson.
Born in 1743, Jefferson, our third president, served from 1801-1809. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum chose Jefferson because of his contribution to the growth of the United States. It was during this president’s term that we acquired the Louisiana Purchase, nearly doubling the size of our country.
Jefferson was a man of many talents: a gifted writer, mathematician, horticulturalist and philosopher, in addition to being an inventor, lawyer, and educator. He graduated from the College of William and Mary at age 18, just two years after enrolling. He wrote over 19,000 letters and invented what was called a polygraph, a machine that made copies of what he wrote.
As a credit to Jefferson’s engineering mind, he designed Monticello and the Virginia State Capital. He was the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, DC, a city he helped plan.
Perhaps Jefferson’s most shining accomplishment, however, was authorship of our Declaration of Independence. This prolific writer spent 17 days in a rented room in Philadelphia, composing the original draft of the document.
An unusual occurrence happened the day Thomas Jefferson died. Both Thomas Jefferson and his friend John Adams were the last living signers of the Declaration still alive in the year 1826. Jefferson was 83 years old and Adams was 90. Interestingly, both died on July 4, 1826, exactly fifty years to the day that our country declared her independence from England.
Unaware that Jefferson had expired a few hours previously, Adams’ last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still lives.” And in one way, he does. His memory is alive on the face of a granite mountain in South Dakota.
Roberta Sarver is an author and songwriter who lives in central Missouri. Her humor columns appear in the Versailles Leader-Statesman and her original songs of worship have appeared on radio stations across the nation. She and her husband are the parents of seven children.