Learning Lincoln On-line

Topic:  A Tribute to B.F. and Dorothy McClerren, Lincoln Portrayers, Charleston, Illinois

For My Friends, Mac and Dorothy (Abraham & Mary)

By Howard Taylor



       As a  Charleston, Illinois native, I remembered seeing a man around town that strikingly resembled Abraham Lincoln.    It would be a few years before I would ever meet him, but boy did this gentleman change my life.  It all started with a  Technology Literacy Fund federal education grant I won for my school district, Charleston  and neighboring Shelbyville Schools during the 2001 school year. 
      The theme of the grant was "By the Light of the Fire"  to use new technologies to teach about 19th Century life, especially the 16th President.  In the midst of pre-planning I contacted B.F. McClerren to see if he ever did shows in schools.  WRONG QUESTION!  Not only did he do shows, but so did Dorothy, his wife.  
      I will tell more of my Abe and Mary contacts in this tribute page.  During the 2005-2006 school year as gifted education teacher at Charleston I am conducting another Lincoln -theme grant entitled "Lincoln Through Technology." 

      After working on many learning activities as listed in  Learning On-Line,  I have retired from teaching, but did write a book about the teaching of Lincoln entitled "Learning Lincoln On-line".  Mac was the inspiration for me becoming interested in Lincoln.

I'm proud to have met many of the presenters at the 2002 event.  It was awe inspiring to sit with so many Lincolns, that presented the original man in a similar way.  There was even a Georgia Abe (far left)

hatsHoward Taylor, center, and Mac McClerren, far right posing at Hodgenville, Ky Lincoln Festival




Abraham and Mary with me at the February, 2006 presentation at Carl Sandburg Elementary School

B.F. McClerren as the 16th President at the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Museum,

May, 2006 for my 2nd grade class

A Biography of B.F. McClerren and Dorothy McClerren

 (known to all as Mac and Dorothy, or Abe and Mary

depending on what they are wearing)

         B.F. McClerren, Ph.D., is a retired college professor. His educational background includes history, philosophy, theology, and rhetoric. He was a professor at Eastern Illinois University for thirty years. There the courses that he taught included the Lincoln Senior Seminar. In 1990 he made a transition and is now on the stages for all ages.
         Honors bestowed include the following. On Sept. 18,1994 McClerren portrayed Lincoln for the C-Span reenactment of the 1858 Lincoln/Douglas debate at Charleston, Illinois. In 1994 the Association of Lincoln Presenters honored him with "The Lincoln Presenter of the Year" award. In 2002 City Lights: Time Elevator Productions of New York City selected McClerren from a list of twenty-five applicants to portray Lincoln in a full length movie.
         Through his presentations a variety of audiences now witness the soul of Lincoln as he wrestles with questions of liberty, truth, and forgiveness. They philosophize with Lincoln the lawyer and politician, weep with Lincoln the war weary president and grieving father, laugh with Lincoln the story teller, and hear the heart of Lincoln as he delivers some of his most famous speeches.
         Dorothy A. McClerren is a retired elementary teacher. With similar facial features, same height, same color of hair and eyes, Dorothy became Mary Lincoln both on and off stage. She realistically presents the life of Mary Todd Lincoln of Kentucky, now of Illinois, and later in the White House. Audiences laugh and weep with the First Lady.
         Honors received by Dorothy include the following. In 1995 she received the "Best Mary Todd Lincoln Presenter of the Year Award" from the Association of Lincoln Presenters. In 1995 Dorothy entered the Mary Lincoln Look-Alike contest at Hodgenville, Kentucky, and there claimed first place. When she entered the same contest again in 2002, Dorothy was again acclaimed the number one Mary Lincoln.
         When asked her purpose in portraying Mary Lincoln, Dorothy replied: "I believe that Mary Lincoln has been much maligned. I want to realistically represent her life in Kentucky, Illinois, and in the White House. When my audiences hear Mary Lincoln I want them to feel and understand her soul, to laugh and weep with
         Mac and Dorothy have demonstrated that they are one of the best Lincoln teams on stage today. In April, 2002 The Association of Lincoln Presenters bestowed upon them the award: "Best Lincoln Team of the Year."
         A neat little pose with several Lincoln Presenters at the annual Hodgenville, Kentucky Lincoln Birthplace Festival.  B.F. McClerren is on the far right (I'm in the center of course).  B.F. knows he is a little too short to match the 6'4" real thing, but has the oratorical ability and knowledge of most  important Lincoln speeches, including the Debates.   Mac has been awarded the title of "best Lincoln orator in the U.S."  and the same by WAND TV News, Decatur, Illinois.



         During the 2001-2002, during my big Abe Lincoln Technology grant, I had the help of a nearly perfect presenter of Abraham Lincoln.  The children at Cowden-Herrick Schools, grades K-8 had a difficult time understanding that Abraham and Mary Lincoln were not "really" present at our school.  When trying to explain that Abe and Mary were actors, it was very similar to explaining that Santa Claus is not Santa Claus.  I was amazed that even older children were true believers. 
         Here are some photos of the visits of Mary and Abraham Lincoln. The time was during the Civil War.  Abraham was showing fatigue and age since his first inauguration.  In actuality, Abraham Lincoln never returned to Illinois after moving to Washington D.C. into the White House, but  the presentation by Mac and Dorothy, depicted him and his wife fictionally making a trip to Central Illinois to visit with family and take care of winning support for his war efforts.  He was able to make a stop at our little school in Shelby County.  This is much what presidents in modern times like to do.   We were the lucky school this time




Abraham & Mary (Mac and Dorothy McClerren) in action at the Herrick School Gym:  giving the Gettysburg Address and the Thanksgiving Proclamation.  Dorothy gave a presentation on "My Mr. Lincoln."


Abe and Mary Performing "Lincoln Celebration" Spring, 1992 & Nov. 21, 2005


Abe Splitting Rails photos


Abraham in action building a fence


Hodginville, Ky Lincoln Birthplace Festival Photos, Oct. 11, 2002


The McClerren Family Photo "Look-Alikes" with the Lincoln Family


Thanks to my friends Mac and Dorothy for all the performances at Cowden, Herrick, and Charleston during my special Lincoln events. 



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