PALM CITY, Fla. (AP) — Most days of the year, the Rev. Richard W. Anderson goes by “Pastor Anderson” of Palm City Presbyterian Church.
Occasionally, he goes by “President Lincoln.” As in Abraham Lincoln.
Anderson, a member of the Association of Lincoln Presenters, for 33 years has been impersonating Lincoln at churches, events and once on the “Today” show. He will present at several Treasure Coast churches this month around the time of Lincoln’s birthday, giving viewers an insight into Lincoln’s faith and how it affected him during the difficult days of his Civil War presidency.
“Lincoln never belonged to a church, but he wrote some of the most profound theological statements I’ve ever heard from a president,” Anderson said. “He didn’t want to get caught up in the side things the churches offered, but Lincoln believed in the Lord.”
A wardrobe change starts Anderson’s transformation from a pastor in a robe to a bearded Lincoln in a long, black suit and a bow tie. Then, the pastor picks up the blended Indiana and Kentucky accent Lincoln was known for to mimic the president’s nasally voice.
The pastor’s favorite Lincoln speeches are the president’s second inaugural address and his declaration for a national day of prayer. A trained opera singer, Anderson also enjoys singing the Gettysburg Address.
Anderson in 1997 said a prayer before Congress to observe Lincoln’s birthday. That same year, Anderson was invited to impersonate the president at Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C., where Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 while attending a performance with his wife.
While at the theater, the curator invited Anderson to go into the box where Lincoln was fatally shot, a place off-limits to tourists. As a tour group passed by, and a woman with the group peeked in the box and caught a glimpse of Anderson in his costume. She ran away screaming, thinking she’d seen a ghost. Anderson can’t tell the story without laughing.
A history buff, Anderson started his Lincoln gig in Illinois. When he moved on to Chicago, Anderson used to perform 100 Lincoln impersonations a year.
“It’s almost surreal watching him do it,” said the Rev. Christopher Ham, of All Villages. “When all of a sudden he walks in the room, it’s like Abraham Lincoln is there and you are taken back in time. It’s as if Lincoln is standing right there, and you get the chance to hear him talk about his faith and how he needed to lean heavily on the support of God during his presidency.”
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