Jenkinson's public portrayals take the form of lengthy monologues followed by Q & A sessions as the character (in costume) featured for that performance. At the end of his performances, he steps out of character and answers questions as himself. Another performance variation is represented by his nationally syndicated radio show, "The Thomas Jefferson Hour:" "While staying resolutely in character, Mr. Jenkinson permits Jefferson to answer audience questions on a broad range of historical subjects and comment carefully on contemporary social and political topics."
Jenkinson was born in Minot; his father was a banker and his mother a schoolteacher. Although the family moved quite often when he and his sister were children, Jenkinson grew up mostly in Dickinson in southwest North Dakota. He graduated from Dickinson High School in 1973 and then attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. He graduated in 1977 with a degree in English, and was then a Rhodes scholar at Oxford.
In 1989, Jenkinson became one of the first winners of the nation’s highest award in the humanities, the Charles Frankel Prize. The National Endowment for the Humanities once described Jenkinson as, “A leader in the revival of chautauqua, a forum for public discussion about the ideas and lives of key figures in American history.” Others who have received this award include Ken Burns, Bill Moyers and Charles Kuralt.This year, Jenkinson received the Robert J. Laxalt Writer of the Year Award from University of Nevada-Reno. Jenkinson was a senior fellow for the Center for Digital Government, based in California, and was scholar-in-residence at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregonfrom 2002-2006 , and Roosevelt scholar-in-residence at Dickinson State University from 2005-2008.
At the age of 50, Jenkinson returned to North Dakota as a permanent resident in 2005 and resides in Bismarck. He is currently the Director of The Dakota Institute through The Fort Mandan Foundation, Chief Consutltant to The Theodore Roosevelt Center through Dickinson State University, and a columnist for the Bismarck Tribune.
On November 15, 2006, Clay appeared as Jefferson on The Colbert Report with two other Jefferson impersonators, Bill Barker and Steven Edenbo.
MULTI-COLORED LEGACY: CLAY JENKINSON, AS THOMAS JEFFERSON, ADDRESSES JEFFERSON'S PARADOXICAL VIEWS ON RACE IN AN APPEARANCE AT NORFOLK STATE UNIVERSITY ON TUESDAY.(LOCAL)
Mar 17, 1999; Byline: MIKE KNEPLER, STAFF WRITER NORFOLK -- Vanessa Futrell humbled Thomas Jefferson on Tuesday. The soft-voiced Norfolk State...
CLAY JENKINSON PORTRAYS THOMAS JEFFERSON; WGN'S JOHN WILLIAMS TO ASK JEFFERSON ABOUT WAR, PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS, OTHER CURRENT TOPICS
May 31, 2007; Harper College issued the following news release: When Clay Jenkinson, a humanities scholar and historian, portrays Thomas...