Our school is named for the great Southern statesman, Henry Clay, called the Great Compromiser.
Historians call him one of the most partisan and hot-headed politicians of his day. He was a gifted politician who found compromises that held the United States in the pre-Civil War days when the issue of slavery threatened to tear it apart.
Clay was from America's south, born in Virginia and moved to Kentucky to practice law with great success. He won elections to serve in Kentucky's state legislature and then rose to enough prominence to win a seat in the United States Congress. He served as the longest-tenured Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 19th century. He quickly made a name for himself as one of the "warhawks," politicians who fueled anti-British sentiment and helped bring about the War of 1812.
Clay earned the nickname "Great Compromiser" by crafting major legislative compromises over the course of 30 years. Each time, he pulled the United States from the brink of civil war. In 1820 and 1821, he used his role as Speaker of the House to broker the Compromise of 1850, a series of brilliant resolutions he introduced to defuse the pitched battle as to whether Missouri would be admitted to the Union as a slave state or free state. Although he owned slaves himself, Clay anguished about slavery, which he called a "great evil."
He was a powerful man with a magnetic personality. He ran three times for president but lost. When he lost political stature for standing for his principals, he said, "I would rather be right than President."
Clay served as Speaker of the House of Representatives longer than any man in the 19th Century, transforming the office into a powerful position.
Why his Comrpromise was important is that it slowed down the march to civil war for the still-young nation of America, not yet even 100 years old. It stopped the Southern states from quitting the Union for another decade and gave the North a chance to develop enough economically and politically to withstand the Civil War. It also gave tiime to let one of America's greatest leaders, Abraham Lincoln, a chance to emerge.
With the passage of the Compromise Henry Clay was hailed a hero. He could spend the time remaining to him basking in the glory of the nation's gratitude. When he died in Washington on June 29th, 1852, he was given a hero's send off. Clay was the first American to lie in state in the capital rotunda, and over the next two weeks his body was carried from city to city in a grand procession