Simpkins and his wife, Carol, are better known to the community as
President Abraham Lincoln and wife Mary Todd Lincoln. They spend
countless hours portraying the president and first lady. Their
appearances locally include annual visits to the Railsplitter
Festival, where they are usually special guests at the Friday night
Civil War Ball, as well as making appearances at the Logan County
Fairgrounds on Saturday and Sunday.
The couple resides in Heyworth
and has established the Simpkins Military History Museum there.
Sutton is known in the area for his carpentry abilities as well
as his dedication to the Railsplitter Festival, tourism in general,
Habitat for Humanity, and he has been a huge asset in the
restoration of The Mill on Route 66.
Sutton said that at the most recent event at Postville
Courthouse, he found tourism volunteer Nancy Saul taking pictures
around the grounds. He pulled her off to the side and asked her to
get a good shot of Simpkins. When she produced the photo he had
requested, he said it was the perfect expression. Sutton then set to
putting the image on paper in the form of a pencil drawing.
Sutton noted the most time-consuming portion of the drawing was
the design of the beard. He said he penciled each individual hair in
the beard so that it would offer the perfect amount of detail for
Friday afternoon the presentation of the drawing was made at the
Information Station on Fifth Street, with tourism director Geoff
Ladd hosting the event.
While a photo of Sutton presenting the drawing to Simpkins took
only a couple of minutes, Simpkins lingered for quite some time
sharing stories of his experiences at Abraham Lincoln.
Simpkins has been portraying Lincoln for several decades. He
noted that today he is 66 years of age, 10 years older than Lincoln
was when he was assassinated. Simpkins said he has changed somewhat
physically over the years, but he is still easily recognized as the
Carol and Gary Simpkins perform as the president and first lady
in a number of ways. Gary explained that they make appearances where
they visit with sightseers, such as when they are at Postville, but
they also have a one-hour-plus presentation they do where they walk
through the life of Lincoln and his wife, Mary.
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The presentation begins with their births, goes through their
growing up and into the assassination of Lincoln. There are also
points in the presentation when Simpkins takes on the roles of both
a Union and a Confederate soldier. After the presidentís death, they
continue the story until the time when Mary Todd also dies.
In addition to attending historical events as the Lincolns, the
couple also take on the roles at various schools during Reading Is
Simpkins recalled one such event several years ago when they were
at the school for an assembly. The children in attendance were
first-, second- and third-graders.
Simpkins said the teacher had played up their arrival, getting
the children excited by telling them the president of the United
Sates was going to pay them a visit.
When he finally entered the auditorium from the back and walked
to the front, where he would take the stage, he heard one little boy
lament: "Lincoln! I thought we were going to meet Clinton!" Simpkins
said it was so humorous that when he took the stage, he had a very
difficult time playing the solemn role of the 16th president.
Simpkins also talked about being stopped for speeding when he and
Carol were in their full Lincoln garb, and about the fact that there
are people who walk up and start talking to him as though he really
is the president resurrected.
As the conversations continued, Simpkins turned to his
appearances in Logan County, talking about events at Postville and
other places throughout the county. He said that over the years the
city of Lincoln and Logan County in general have become like a
second home to him and his wife, and they are always delighted to
come and visit.
[By NILA SMITH]
Military HIstory Museum