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Presidential portrayal

James Madison re-enactor to
speak at Historic Madison Inc.’s dinner

Nominations sought for
Reindollar preservation award

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(May 2009) – James Madison, who lived from 1751-1836 and served as the fourth president of the United States, has been called the “Father of the Constitution.” A student of history and government, and educated in law, he participated in the framing of the Virginia Constitution in 1776, served in the Continental Congress, and was a leader of the Virginia Assembly.

John Douglas Hall

Photo provided

John Douglas Hall
has immersed himself
in the daily life of
President James
Madison since 1985.
He reads and studies
what Madison might
have on a day-to-day
basis, 200 years
to the date.

As a member of Congress, he helped frame the Bill of Rights and enacted the first revenue legislation. During his presidency, which lasted from 1809-1817, pioneers in a small frontier town on the Ohio River named their soon-to-be thriving city after him. That city became Madison, Ind.
For more than 30 years, John Douglas Hall, a former history educator in Stafford, Va., has immersed himself in what would have been the daily life of Madison. Each morning, he reads three morning gazettes that Madison would have read 200 years to the date.
Hall also reads intellectual and political works that Madison would have read at the time.
Since 1985, Hall has followed Madison’s life day by day, keeping step with him as he faced the issues of a young nation and slowly matured into one of the most well-read and informed men of his time.
Hall will bring his unique perspective of Madison to Historic Madison Inc.’s Annual Dinner on May 22. It is scheduled for 6 p.m. at The Livery Stable, 313 Broadway St. The night will begin with a social hour, silent auction and jazz program. Dinner begins at 7 p.m.; the program at 8 p.m.
During the annual event, HMI will also present its annual Dorothy Inglis Reindollar Preservation Award. HMI is currently seeking nominations for this year’s award. It was established in 2000 for the purpose of recognizing exemplary preservation or restoration accomplishments occurring within Madison and Jefferson County. The award recognizes an individual, project, corporation or organization that has made outstanding contributions the community embracing preservation techniques, over a period of time, resulting in making our community a better place to live, work, play, and raise a family.
“Since Madison is named after James Madison, it seemed natural that in this Bicentennial year that we get a speaker about him,” said John Staicer, HMI’s executive director. Hall has brought the former president to life for a wide variety of groups and organizations including the Smithsonian Institute, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the National Trust For Historic Preservation, the Library of Congress and the American College of Trial Lawyers, he said. “With such a wide array of nationally known venues, I was sure he would be the perfect fit for our dinner.”
Hall has been the singular person of James Madison at Montpelier, the home of Madison that was opened to the public in 1986 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Hall has traveled the country speaking as Madison at colleges and universities and other public forums. Hall is noted for his ability to represent Madison on constitutional issues for legal and academic venues.
Ironically, he even physically resembles James Madison.
“It’s incredible to be in Hall’s presence and hear him articulate Madison’s views. Hall gives people a realistic idea of who Madison was and brings him alive,” said Glenda Rooney, associate vice president of university relations at James Madison University. “It’s hard to call Hall anything but Mr. Madison.”
“Madison is more of a cerebral individual than other political figures of his time. He wasn’t a showboat,” said Hall in an April telephone interview. “The more I can place myself in the intellectual realm of Madison, the more I can reveal his actions.”
He said he tries to avoid a theater or stage presentation of Madison. Instead, his purpose “is to further the public pursuit of the understanding of the American Constitution, and to encourage discussion of democratic-republican principles, by presenting and revealing James Madison in the context of his times two hundred years ago to the day.”
“I don’t have a political agenda,” he said. “I simply want to reveal what Madison was dealing with in the context of his time frame.”
He has often been asked to speak at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and other noted academic institutions. He spoke before the Virginia Supreme Court Justices at Montpelier Constitution Center, and before the Florida Bar Association, in Tampa, Fla. He has also appeared in several History Channel documentaries, been on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” “Crossfire,” and CBS TV’s “Early Show.”
When Hall arrives in Madison for the dinner, he will bring no prepared speech. Instead, he will spend a few minutes educating the crowd on his unique presentation and then do a question and answer session. He will be speaking as Madison might have to an audience in May of 1809.

• HMI’s Annual Dinner is open to the public; however, reservations are required. Cost is $25 per person. For more information, to register for the dinner or to submit a nomination for the Reindollar Award, call HMI at (812) 265-2967. Nominations are due by 4:30 p.m. May 15.

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