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Rushmore Legacy

Photo copyright 2019 by Budgie Sarver

Which president's likeness is depicted on the $2 bill? How about the nickel? Hint: you can find his likeness on Mount Rushmore, just behind George Washington's head.

If you guessed Thomas Jefferson, you were correct.

Born in 1743, Jefferson was our third president, serving 1801-1809. He also was our second vice-president.

Sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who carved the four presidents' likenesses on Rushmore, chose Jefferson to honor the man's contribution to the growth of the United States.

During Jefferson's terms we acquired the Louisiana Purchase, nearly doubling the size of our country and adding all or part of 15 states.

Jefferson was a man of many talents: a gifted writer, mathematician, horticulturalist and philosopher, in addition to being an inventor, lawyer and educator.

He graduated from the College of William and Mary at age 18, just two years after enrolling. He wrote more than 19,000 letters and invented what was called a polygraph, a machine that made copies of what he wrote.

As a credit to Jefferson's engineering mind, he designed Monticello and the Virginia State Capital. He was the first president to be inaugurated in Washington DC, a city he helped plan.

Perhaps Jefferson's most shining accomplishment, however, was becoming the main author of our Declaration of Independence. This prolific writer spent 17 days in a rented room in Philadelphia, composing the original draft of the document.

What student of history hasn't heard his famous words, "When in the course of human events..." and "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal"?

Jefferson had a vast personal library, and when British troops burned most of Washinton DC, Jefferson sold his books to the Library of Congress.

Whether a coincidence or the hand of God, no one can tell; however an unusual incident happened the day Jefferson died.

Both Jefferson and his friend John Adams were the last living signers of the Declaration, and still were alive July 4, 1826. Jefferson was 83 years old and Adams was 90, and both died on the same day, exactly 50 years from the day America declared her independence from England.

Unaware that Jefferson had expired a few hours previously, Adams' last words were, "Thomas Jefferson still lives."

And in one way, he does. His memory still is alive on the face of a granite mountain in South Dakota.

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