By Mike Steely
A suggestion from his grandson prompted Thomas Wright to become Abraham Lincoln.
Or at least take on the Lincoln character. And now the Oak Ridge man, who is a facility supervisor for an engineering and construction company, portrays Mr. Lincoln at special events, in schools, and just about anywhere he’s asked. His wife, Sue, thought that Mary Todd Lincoln should be represented also, and now she takes that part.
Seeing the two of them together at an event is memorable.
“My wife and I are both from the area near the birthplace of Lincoln in Kentucky. We used to go to the annual Lincoln Day festival where they have a Lincoln Look-Alike contest and he (his grandson) would go with us. He assumed that I knew about Lincoln so we started getting ready to do what my grandson asked. Our first appearance was in 2009 in honor of Lincoln’s 200th birthday,” Wright said.
“We’ve appeared at the history center in Atlanta as well as a number of reenactments including Tunnel Hill, Ga., Cumberland Gap, the Ramsey House, Wild Cat Mountain, and Munfordville, Ky., “ he said, adding that they have visited numerous schools in the Oak Ridge and Knoxville area, made appearances at the Museum of Appalachia and various civic events such as club meetings, boy scout meetings, local history fairs and at Veteran Day parades.
The Focus asked him what the oddest reaction he had as Lincoln and he replied “Are you a Ghost?” and “I thought you got shot.”
Adults and children also ask Wright if his beard is real, what is your horse’s name, where’s your ax, and “Are you a vampire slayer?”
Being Lincoln for reenactments have seen some odd events and photos.
“I met ‘Jefferson Davis’a few years ago in Cumberland Gap, we played chess for some photos,” he said. He said he met several people portraying the Confederate President and some became friends and compared their experience with his, but Wright said he met a couple of them who were not so friendly. “In fact, one pulled a gun on me! I’m not sure he was kidding,” he said.
The Wrights’ Abe and Mary appeared recently at Fort Dickerson during a reenactment there and drew lots of attention.
“Normally we do not charge schools, but for reenactments where we have to travel very far we usually ask for a hotel be provided and maybe $200. Usually, if it’s close to home and our schedule is open we like to go and just visit with the public and we generally do not charge unless we are asked to speak,” he said.
Wright said they have visited many of the Lincoln sites in Kentucky and Illinois.
“We recently made a trip to Virginia and visited the Confederate White House in Richmond, where he visited as well as the Berkeley Plantation where Abe visited General McClellan early in the war,” Wright said.
“We have not yet made it to Washington, D. C. but hope to in the next couple of years,” he added.
“My wife and I consider it an honor and privilege to represent such important people in our history. We are members of the national organization, Association of Lincoln Presenters, and meet with fellow portrayers at an annual conference. We look forward to continuing our efforts to education our you people and encourage them to learn about our history,” he concluded.
Anyone interested in contacting Tom and Sue Wright about having Abe and Mary Lincoln visit their organization, event, or school should call them at 428-1680 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website is abelincolnoakridgetn.com.