Col. James Monroe, the 5th President of the United States was the last of the Founding Fathers to be elected as the Chief Magistrate of the young and growing United States. His first inauguration was on March 4, 1817. He was re-elected in 1820 and left office on March 4, 1825 after two terms.
Most will remember him for the “Monroe Doctrine”, which wasn’t used in name to describe his policies regarding foreign affairs until 1850, a full generation after he left office in 1825. In reality, these policies drew the young United States into the spotlight of international affairs as other nations in the Americas began to claim their own independence from European colonial rule. The immediate provocation leading to the declaration of the “Monroe Doctrine” was the colonial claim by Tsarist Russia to the Northwest (Pacific) Coast and that empire’s forbidding of non-Russian ships from approaching that region.
Prior to his Presidency, Monroe’s diplomatic roles included his service as Minister Plenipotentiary to France, and later Minister to the Court of St. James’.
In April of 1811, President Madison appointed Monroe as Secretary of State. After the burning of the Federal City (Washington, D.C.) on August 24, 1814, Madison dismissed his Secretary of War, John Armstrong appointed Monroe as Secretary of War.
At Madison's request, Monroe was sworn into the office of Secretary of War on September 27, 1814, and resigned as Secretary of State a few days later on October 1. However, Monroe ultimately filled both offices as Madison failed to appoint a new Secretary of State prior to the conclusion of the war with the Treaty of Ghent.
In March of 1815, Monroe resigned as Secretary of War, and was reappointed Secretary of State. He left that office when he was inaugurated as the Fifth President of the United States on March 4, 1817. After serving two terms as President, Monroe retired to private life in Virginia.
James "Jay" Gardner Harrison III, fifty-six, is a 7th-generation native of Fredericksburg, Virginia. He is a descendant of two American Presidents, William Henry Harrison (9th U.S. President) and his grandson, Benjamin Harrison (23rd U.S. President). Jay graduated from James Monroe High School in 1978 followed by matriculation in 1982 from The College of William & Mary in Virginia with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Anthropology with a Concentration in Historical Archaeology.
From 1982 to 1999, Jay worked as a cultural resource manager (i.e., archaeology and historic preservation) and museum consultant based primarily out of Fredericksburg, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. Moving to Orange, Virginia in 1999, he became the Executive Director of the Orange Downtown Alliance, Inc. (ODA) which is the Virginia Main Street Community Organization for revitalizing the historic downtown business district in that community. Jay served there until 2006 whereupon he returned to his hometown to guide Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. (HFFI) as that historic preservation organization’s Executive Director. Currently, Jay works full-time as a Public Programs Assistant with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. He also works part-time as a Sales Associate and Athletic Footwear Specialist in the high-end retail industry with Saxon Shoes & Accessories, Virginia’s oldest and largest shoe store.
Jay possesses 30 years of living history interpretation/reenacting/acting experience and has developed and coordinated many events of this nature, primarily focused on the American Revolution, the post-Revolution years, the Federalist Era and the Regency period, as well as the much earlier French and Indian War (Seven Years’ War). Since 1987, he has regularly portrayed James Monroe from soldier to statesman to diplomat to 5th United States President, in approximately 200 living history programs mainly for the James Monroe Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia, but also at other museums, historic properties and sites from Washington, D.C. to Colonial Williamsburg.
Jay’s living history interpretation/reenacting profession has led to his involvement in related film and theatre work. To date, he has worked as an actor and background artist in 11 productions, including 6 documentaries (mostly for the History Channel), an independent short film, a television mini-series (John Adams on HBO), an online pilot episode for a hopeful series about a Lynchburg, Virginia family during the American Civil War, a stage performance and an online commercial.
Jay resides in the downtown historic district within the City of Fredericksburg. In his free time, he trains and competes competitively in half marathons and marathons. He has one child, a 25-year-old daughter, Victoria "Tori" Ann Harrison, who graduated in 2009 from Orange County High School in Orange, Virginia and in 2013 from Randolph-Macon College (R-MC) in Ashland, Virginia double majoring in Ancient Greek and Archaeology. She is the first R-MC student in that college’s history to attain a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Archaeology. She shares her father's passion for history and living history interpretation/reenacting/acting. Tori has often portrayed the daughter of a private (Jay) in the 6th North Carolina Continental Line Regiment, a recreated unit from the American Revolution. Tori currently resides in Charles City County, Virginia and works in the craft beer industry in Williamsburg, Virginia. Her mother, Lee Langston-Harrison, is the Executive Director of the Reedviille Fishermen’s Museum in Reedville, Virginia. Lee was the first Curator of the James Monroe Museum from 1986 to 1998 and was the one who encouraged and offered Jay the opportunity to portray Colonel James Monroe beginning in 1987 for the first time.