Department of Parks
New Book Sheds Light on Cassius Clay
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Cassius Marcellus Clay was a volatile man who advocated the emancipation of slaves at a time when the idea was unpopular in Kentucky. He was a friend to Abraham Lincoln and served as Minister of Russia. He was a prominent Kentucky editor and landowner. But, most of all, by all accounts, Cassius Clay was “a fascinating character,” says Betty Ellison, who has written a new book about the “Lion of White Hall.”
“You talk about a man who marched to his own drummer,” Ellison said in a recent interview. “I don’t think Cash ever met a challenge that he didn’t embrace.”
Ellison, of Lexington, is the author of “A Man Seen but Once: Cassius Marcellus Clay,” published by Authorhouse.
Clay has been the subject of a number of biographies, but all seem to approach the man from a predetermined point of view. At least one major biography was overly critical of Clay, while others were “excessively kind,” Ellison said.
“My object is to present him as he was, a fascinating character, warts and all,” Ellison said.
Clay’s home is preserved and managed as White Hall State Historic Site, located just off I-75 in northern Madison County. Park Manager Kathleen White said the new book is a fascinating read.
“What a delight it was,” White said. “I found it read more like a novel than a book of dry facts. I feel it is probably the best researched book to date on Clay.”
The book covers not only Clay’s life, but also the restoration of White Hall during the administration of Governor Louie Nunn. In the late 1960s, Ellison was a state employee and she assisted First lady Beula Nunn, who spearheaded the drive to restore the house from a farm storage building in which chickens roosted in the family grand piano to a historical showcase.
The book is on sale at White Hall’s gift shop.
The Kentucky State Park System is composed of 52 state parks plus an interstate park shared with Virginia. The Department of Parks, an agency of the Commerce Cabinet, operates 17 resort parks with lodges -- more than any other state. Each year, Kentucky parks draw 7 million visitors and contribute $317 million to the economy. For more information on Kentucky parks, visit our Web site at http://www.parks.ky.gov