An Interview With...
Homer S. Sewell, III
What is your job?
I am a motivational, inspirational and historical speaker as Abraham Lincoln. Prior to my becoming Abe in 1975 I had been in real estate sales and still am when not on the road visiting schools and other locations.
What were your favorite subjects in school as a child? Were any subjects particularly difficult?
English was my favorite subject and I loved Mrs. Aldea Milwee. I had her for all four years of high school. She came to hear me speak in 1975 or 1976 and after listening to me, she came up, gave me a big hug and said, "Homer you did good." Coming from my English teacher, it was the nicest compliment I have gotten.
I had trouble with Algebra II and Geometry and finally dropped it and took typing instead. I have always been glad I did.
What career path did you take?
My book, Image in the Mirror, lists all the jobs I have had in my lifetime and it runs from A to Z in the list. I have mostly always been in sales and sales management of some type. I have two years of technical college studying computers from back in 1962 and 1963, and have taken lots of other specialized classes over the years.
My performances as Abraham Lincoln are more than a hobby to me. I take what I do quite seriously and enjoy seeing the look on students and adults faces when I have them in tears one minute and laughing the next. I started portraying Abe in 1975 in Orlando and have been at it ever since. I have now seen over two million people in 46 states and 2,400 locations and have started my 29th year as Abe. I want to get to Alaska and Hawaii which I have not been to at all. I have visited Montana and Louisiana but have not spoken as Abe there so want to visit there too. I would love to be able to say I have spoken in all 50 states before the end of 2004. So if you are reading this and you live in one of the four states I have not spoken in, please call, write or send smoke signals.
How did you get a job working for President Johnson? What did you do?
I got picked to work at the White House Communications Agency while I was going through Basic Training at Fort Gordon, GA in 1964. I later on got to do some of that same interviewing for others to work at the White House. I was a switchboard operator for the First Family and for Vice President Humphrey and his family. Wherever the President or VP family went, someone from WHCA had to be there to take care of their communications needs. I got to travel to New York City, Chicago, the LBJ Ranch in Texas, Montana, South America and other locations during the two years and three months I was assigned to WHCA. I was civilian status and only wore my uniform if I wanted to fly back to Florida on leave on a military airplane. My normal day-to-day uniform was a suit and tie.
When did you start portraying President Lincoln? What inspired you to do that?
I became Abe in October of 1975 when I was going to a school to speak to the students about my personal experiences at the White House. About that time I started growing a beard, just like the real Abraham Lincoln did after Grace Bedelle wrote to him in 1860. The students noticed the resemblance and started calling me Abe. I started studying all about Abe and the Civil War and now the rest is history. At last count I have over 200 books in my library on Lincoln and the Civil War.
Why did you decide to build a log cabin? Do you live in it?
I had always wanted to live in a log cabin so in 1984 I built one and lived in it until 1987. I sold it and bought the house, barn and 8 acres that I live on now. I rent rooms in the house and live in the barn...closer to my animals.
What are the 35 things you have in common with Abraham Lincoln?
There are thirty-five similarities between me and Abraham Lincoln:
delivered the Gettysburg Address on radio in Florida in
What do you like best about portraying the 16th President of the United States?
Being able to inspire others, young and old alike. For the time I am with a group I am Abe to them. Mr. Lincoln is alive and well indeed!
Do you ever get comments when you are not "in character"?
I get comments almost every day no matter where I am about how much I look like Abe. I love to tease folks when they ask me:
anyone ever tell you that you look like ABE LINCOLN?"
And then I hand them one with my color picture on it. They about freak out!
Where are some of the places you have performed?
Mount Rushmore, SD, Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC, and lots of other interesting places in 46 states. Ford's Theatre was very special for me....looking up and seeing box 7 & 8, and realizing that was where Abe had been sitting on that fateful evening of April 14, 1865.
What inspires you most about Abraham Lincoln?
His honesty, integrity and love of people. Both of us love our audiences and people in all walks of life. I want my audiences to never give up in the pursuit of their goals and aspirations in life. I want them to be dreamers, stargazers, rainbow chasers and to soar with the eagles. And you can't soar with the eagles if you are clucking around on the ground with the turkeys.
Did you ever dress up as Honest Abe as a child?
I did not dress up as Lincoln but did deliver the Gettysburg Address on a radio program while I was in sixth grade in Ocala, Florida.
Did you have a background in theater or public speaking before you began portraying Abraham Lincoln?
I did do some acting in high school....Shakespeare and Tom Sawyer and enjoyed it. My skills as a professional speaker have been developed and fine-tuned over the past 28 years and in front of over two million people who have enjoyed what I had to say to them. I refer to myself as a professional speaker who happens to look like Abraham Lincoln so I deliver my messages in first person. My show is a combination of inspiration, motivation, historical, humorous and patriotic. I have been lovingly called a preacher and I respect where those thoughts came from.
Do you have a favorite Lincoln quote?
"I am not afraid to die and, in fact, would be more than willing but I have an irresistible desire to live until I can be assured that the world is a better place because of my having lived in it."
I feel that if all of us could live by these words we would have a better world to live in.
Do you have a favorite speech of Abraham Lincoln?
The Gettysburg Address is my favorite speech to deliver as part of my program. I become moved each time I deliver this wonderfully written speech. I deliver the version he said at Gettsyburg as best I can tell. I have not researched the different versions. There are five different copies that Abraham Lincoln hand wrote after November 19, 1863.
What advice do you have for school children who read this interview?
Please have respect for your teachers, parents, all school staff, our flag and our country. Always remember to say NO to drugs, alcohol, tobacco and youth violence. Give your teachers lot of hugs every day. If we had more hugging, we would have less mugging. Hug someone every day and start with parents, family and teachers. And invite this Abe to come spend the day with you and your classmates. You CAN take me in for show and tell and the government will pay for it with Federal Drug Free funds.
- 18 January 2004
1 February 2004
© 2004 - Imagiverse Educational Consortium