America ’s two-year Abraham Lincoln bicentennial celebration begins Monday, February 11th in Louisville, Kentucky. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Doris Kearns Goodwin lectures in the afternoon at the Henry Clay Hotel. That evening, I have the honor of being master of ceremonies at a musical salute to Lincoln at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. The program features soprano Angela Brown, Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer, and actor Sam Waterston who has portrayed Lincoln on many occasions. On Tuesday, Lincoln’s 199th birthday, there’s a program at his birthplace near Hodgenville, about 60 miles south of Louisville.
There are no living direct descendents of Abraham Lincoln, but there are kin and I am among them. I am descended from Abe’s, grandmother, Lucy Hanks. Lucy gave birth to Nancy Hanks on February 5, 1784. For more than 150 years, scholars have tried to determine the identity of Nancy’s father, but they have found no documentary evidence that would determine the father with any certainty. They know for sure that Lucy married Henry Sparrow in 1791. Lucy and Henry are my ancestors, so I am Abe’s distant half cousin or something. So is George Clooney, by the way. George’s mother, Nina, is also a descendent of Henry Sparrow and Lucy Hanks Sparrow.
Here’s another piece of trivia. Kentucky was the birthplace of both Civil War presidents. Jefferson Davis’s bicentennial will be marked in June at the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History in Frankfort, the state capital. Sam Waterston and I will not be there.