Skip to main content
Skip to navigation

This site is archival. Please visit the current MIZZOU magazine site for up-to-date content.

Mizzou Mail

On this day, Jefferson's birthday

Since the university claims its status as the first land-grant university west of the Mississippi and hosts Thomas Jefferson's original tombstone for that reason, the following might be appropriate for your magazine:
On today’s date, April 13, in 1743, Thomas Jefferson was born at Shadwell, the family home in Virginia. When Jefferson became President, the leading citizens of Washington City inquired about his birthday, that they might celebrate it. He explained his refusal to provide that information in an August 1803 letter to his attorney general, Levi Lincoln:

“Disapproving myself of transferring the honors and veneration for the great birthday of our Republic to any individual, or of dividing them with individuals, I have declined [letting] my own birthday be known, and have engaged my family not to communicate it. This has been the uniform answer to every application of the kind” (The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, p. 92).
John P. Foley’s The Jeffersonian Cyclopedia, p. 93, quotes B.L. Raynor’s Life of Thomas Jefferson, p. 18: “The only birthday I recognize is that of my country’s liberties [July 4].”
Foley’s Cyclopedia also contains this footnote for the citation above: “Jefferson thought he discovered in the birthday celebrations of particular persons, a germ of aristocratical distinction, which it was incumbent upon all such persons, by a timely concert of example, to crush in the bud” (Life of Thomas Jefferson, p. 17).
Two-hundred-sixty-seven years later, it would still be Mr. Jefferson’s fervent desire that the country’s birthday be celebrated and not his own.
Patrick Lee, BS Ed '72
Ashland, Mo.


From left, Mitchell Hardin, BJ '82, "Spider" and John Zeliff, BS '79, M Ed '82, EdSp '85, show their Tiger pride at the Sept. 19, 2009, football game against Furman.

Spider cheers

My husband, John, BS Ed ‘79, M Ed ’82, EdSp ’85, and I attended the Sept. 19, 2009, football game against Furman. Our daughter, Leslie, is a freshman at Mizzou and a Golden Girl. We have enjoyed returning to Mizzou for athletic events.
John had also attended the Missouri Alumni Association Leadership meeting on Friday, Sept. 18.  Throughout the weekend, we talked about the football games we had attended in the 1970s and '80s. John mentioned how, back then, a man named "Spider" had led the cheers and gotten the crowd involved in the football games. During the first half of the Furman game, while we were seated in our section-D seats, who did we see but Spider himself, leading the crowd in cheers! After the game as were walking back to our car, there was Spider on the sidewalk talking to another Mizzou alumus, Mitch Hardin of St. Petersburg, Fla.
It was a great weekend for Mizzou alumni. Spider’s energy and pride for Mizzou is still strong! Go Tigers!!! And thanks, Spider, for the memories.
Nancy Zeliff, M Ed ’86, PhD ’93
Skidmore, Mo.