Five Minutes With: Jim Getty, Abraham Lincoln impersonator

November 6, 2009 

  • The Lowcountry Civil War Round Table featuring Jim Getty will meet at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday at Bluffton High School on McCracken Circle off Buckwalter Parkway. Tickets for non-members are $10. The round table will host a "Morning After" session with Getty from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday. Donations of $5 are encouraged. Details: John Monkaitis, 843-671-2236, www.lcwrt.squarespace.com

Jim Getty bears a striking resemblance to Abraham Lincoln, even when he's just in jeans and a T-shirt.

It must be the beard.

The Gettysburg, Pa., man has been impersonating Lincoln for the past 30 years. He's played the 16th president in the Turner Network film "The Ironclads," and he's done voice work for numerous Lincoln specials and exhibits.

He'll be presenting "The Rise of Lincoln 1848-1860" at the Lowcountry Civil War Round Table's meeting Wednesday.

Getty explains the lasting appeal of Lincoln.

Question. What got you interested in Lincoln?

Answer. When I was teaching school. I was in Sandusky, Ohio. I decided one year I would fashion a beard; chose not to have the mustache. As the beard grew in, people would point out there was a Lincoln likeness. Hal Holbrook was doing a one-man Mark Twain show at that time. I thought maybe if I could develop something, I could moonlight a bit with an evening performance once in a while. So I got into some research and really got hooked on it. I eventually talked my wife into moving to Gettysburg (Pa.) to start a small theater, and that's where we've been since 1977.

Q. Is the beard still real?

A. Oh, yeah (laughs).

Q. Was it tough at first to find work?

A. When we moved here it took a while to get the theater going. I thought on the first night the line would be out the door, but it wasn't quite that. It gradually came along. We managed to keep our heads above water. A lot of businesses around here helped us out. By three years it seemed that we turned the corner.

Q. What is it about Lincoln that interests you?

A. The more you read about him -- just the different periods of his life. What I'm speaking to the group in the Lowcountry (about) is his years prior to his election (to the presidency). The thing is, you can take about any 10 years of his life, whether his youth or law practice or the slavery issue. There's so many parts of his life that are of interest. He was in the mix of so many major issues -- slavery, the war. His determination, his vision -- all of this.

Q. Is Lincoln the only person you portray?

A. Yes, it is. I have a leadership company I work for; they encouraged me at one time to do a sea captain. But the Lincoln business picked up so much I put that aside.

Q. Do people stop you on the street?

A. You still get that. Even in street clothes. The beard is just a giveaway.

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