Bill Barker is a veteran historical actor-interpreter at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. For over 20 years, he portrayed Thomas Jefferson as a member of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s Nation Builder program. More than a decade prior to joining Colonial Williamsburg, Barker was invited to take on the persona of Jefferson at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and began his life’s work of continued performance and scholarship of our nation’s third president.
Barker has performed and answered questions as Thomas Jefferson for Colonial Williamsburg since the spring of 1993. His artistry combines theater, historical scholarship and the relation of Jefferson’s life and times to our world today. He has performed as Jefferson at his homes Monticello and Poplar Forest and at the White House, the U. S. Capitol, the National Archives, the headquarters of the FBI and NASA, the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and in nearly all U.S. states. He has also performed as Jefferson at the Palace of Versailles, the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence and the Musée de la Légion d’honneur in Paris and many other locations throughout France, Great Britain and Italy. He has portrayed Jefferson for the Chautauqua Institution in Jamestown, New York and at the Federal Executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and for the National Park Service, the Remnant Trust and the Jefferson Legacy Foundation. He has been featured as Jefferson in magazines including Time, People, Reader’s Digest, Southern Living, Virginia Living and Philadelphia, and he has appeared as Jefferson ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, C-SPAN and Comedy Central’s Colbert Report.
Barker is the same height, weight and general appearance as Jefferson. He stood as a model for two statues of Jefferson, one sculpted by James Nathan Muir for the Jefferson Library at West Point, the other sculpted by Ivan Schwartz in the visitor’s entrance hall of the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond. Barker portrays the Jefferson image in the visitor’s center videos at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., at Monticello and at the Virginia State Capitol.
A Philadelphia native, Barker graduated from the William Penn Charter School and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in history, from Villanova University. Attracted to the stage at an early age, he became a professional actor, theatre director and producer. For 11 years he was the artistic director of the Savoy Opera Company of Philadelphia, the world’s oldest continually producing Gilbert and Sullivan troupe.