Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society presents: "Thomas Jefferson: The Man Behind the Myths” February 28 2015


February 15, 2015


Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society

For further information contact: Richard Dixon at (571) 748-7660; or:



Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society presents: "Thomas Jefferson: The Man Behind the Myths”

The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society will present a forum on April 11, 2015, at the University of Virginia’s Jefferson Scholars Foundation titled, “Thomas Jefferson: The Man Behind the Myths.” In the past few decades, historical scholarship has obscured the true character and thought of Thomas Jefferson. This forum will address misconceptions and misunderstandings concerning the historical Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was a man of profound dimensionality. He was a statesman, politician, philosopher, architect, meteorologist, farmer, philologist, paleontologist, religionist, biologist, and inventor, among other things. Nonetheless, he is generally known to the public today only as the writer of the Declaration of Independence and an owner of slaves. This conference will explore beyond this narrow perception of America’s third president.

Because Jefferson wore so many hats, he is enshrouded in myths. The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society has invited scholars of excellent reputation to explore the person behind those myths. Topics to be discussed include Jefferson’s learning process, his conception of history, his notion of the relation between the mind and body, his importance as an architect, the influence on him of the Christian religion, and the centrality of morality in his political philosophy.

The seminar will be held on Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Charlottesville, Virginia at the University of Virginia’s Jefferson Scholars Foundation, located at 112 Clarke Court; Charlottesville, Virginia, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. Admission to this special event is free and open to the public.

The program will begin at 8:30 a.m., with morning welcome, conviviality and refreshments for all participants; and will include periodic breaks with a 12:00 Noon lunch hour for dining and fellowship at several popular local restaurants within a few minutes’ walk of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation facility.   A public question-and-answer discussion will be held by each of the speakers following their address.

The Morning Session will be moderated by Dr. White M. Wallenborn, M.D., Past-President of the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society and former Monticello Guide.

9:15 a.m. – Mark Beliles, “Doubting Thomas? The Distorted Religious Legacy of Thomas Jefferson”

Currently, most people regard Jefferson as a Deist or life-long skeptic who thought religion and government should have nothing to do with each other; however, recent evidence shows that this is not entirely true.

Mark Beliles is author or co-author of several scholarly books including Doubting Thomas? The Religious Life and Legacy of Thomas Jefferson (2014, Morgan James Publishers with Jerry Newcombe), and The Selected Religious Letters and Papers of Thomas Jefferson (2013, America Publications). His Ph.D. dissertation is Free as the Air: Churches and Politics in Jefferson’s Virginia (2000, America Publications

10:15 a.m. – David J. Gowdy, “Thomas Jefferson and the Pursuit of Virtue”

In stark contrast to contemporary portrayals of him as a radical individualist and libertine, Thomas Jefferson’s life and writings evidence a steadfast conviction to precepts of virtue and morality

David J. Gowdy received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Kansas State University, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and received his Juris Doctorate degree from the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University, graduating Cum Laude.

11:15 a.m. – Richard Guy Wilson, “Thomas Jefferson Architect: Myth and Reality”

Thomas Jefferson is arguably one of the greatest if not the greatest American architect. He helped to give the United States a public image in architecture that relied upon the classicism of Europe

Richard Guy Wilson holds the Commonwealth Professor's Chair in Architectural History at the University of Virginia.

1:40 p.m. – M. Andrew Holowchak, “An ‘Honest Heart’ versus a ‘Knowing Head’: The Myth of the Preeminence of Rationality in Jefferson’s Conceptions of Man and Society”

It is common today for scholars to note both Jefferson’s belief in a moral sense and the great regard that he, as a disciple of the Enlightenment, held for reason. Yet there is very little written on Jefferson’s view of the moral sense, and astonishingly, even less on his conception of rationality.

M. Andrew Holowchak teaches Philosophy at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. He has published over 90 peer-reviewed papers in areas such as ethics, psychoanalysis, ancient philosophy and science, philosophy of sport, and social and political philosophy and has authored/edited 26 books including six books on Thomas Jefferson.

2:40 p.m. –Brien Steele, Thomas Jefferson’s Embodied Mind: Bodily Decay, a Material God, and Human Immortality”

In his bill for religious freedom, Jefferson boldly asserted that “Almighty God hath created the mind free” and later declared his own eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the mind of man. 

Brian Steele specializes in American intellectual and political history with a particular emphasis on the American Revolution and Early American Republic. His book Thomas Jefferson and American Nationhood (Cambridge, 2012) was a finalist for the George Washington Book Prize and was named a 2012 notable title by the Society for US Intellectual History.

3:40 p.m. – James Thompson, “Thomas Jefferson Today and Thomas Jefferson Tomorrow”

Since Professor Annette Gordon-Reed published her controversial book about Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings in 1997, Thomas Jefferson has existed as two contradictory people. Thompson contends that this schizophrenic character is a manufactured bore

James Thompson studied Philosophy as an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia.

4:40 p.m. – Closing and Conviviality

About the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society:

The Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society ( ) is a Charlottesville, Virginia-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization which has a four-fold purpose: to further the honor and integrity of Thomas Jefferson, and to promote his vision and ideas, and their application in our times and in the future; to pursue truth in all matters that touch upon the legacy of Thomas Jefferson; to promote the principles of freedom, patriotism and truth, which were hallmarks of Thomas Jefferson's life; and to sponsor and perform research in matters pertaining to the private and public life of Thomas Jefferson. Additional detailed facts documenting the work of the independent Scholars Commission and other distinguished scholars can be referenced at the Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society web site.