Born in Southern California, Klein originally studied to be a Lutheran minister. After some graduate study in St. Louis, he met his future wife, changed course, and went into landscaping. There he worked as supervisor of landscaping and grounds for a missionary organization in the pacific until 1980, and his wife Linda taught school. At the time he began to participate in local dramatic activities. During the Bicentennial year, he was first asked to portray Lincoln for a small local celebration. With only an amateur acting background at the time, he says he himself was surprised at the result. Two years later, in 1978, he decided to begin studying Lincoln with a view to full-scale dramatic productions back on the mainland. In 1980, after two years of extensive research into the works of Lincoln, and selected biographies, he set out on this unique adventure. He traveled from coast to coast for two years until 1982, when he moved to Springfield, Illinois where there was opportunity to cut down on travels by performing for visitors to Lincoln’s hometown.
To prepare for a performance, it takes about an hour with costume and make-up. However, if you happen to have Lincoln in mind, his natural resemblance to Abraham Lincoln can be quite convincing. Several years ago when visiting Washington D.C. he created something of a stir when he walked into Ford’s Theater, the place where Lincoln was shot. Though Klein was dressed in ordinary street attire, with his 6’3″ height and Quaker beard one woman screamed outright when she looked up to see him casually strolling down the stairs.
Using a Kentucky accent based upon research about Lincoln’s speech patterns, Klein usually peppers his performances with humor, stories, and passion. “The programs are varied,” he says. “Adaptation is a specialty. I have a repertoire of about a dozen plays, which can be altered for special settings.” In addition, there is a great variety of flexible and interactive one-man shows on various topics, which have been developed over the years. An exciting part of these shows has been the element of audience participation. It becomes both entertainment and education. After over 30 years of research, Klein knows his subject. “It is amazing how well Lincoln’s words and ideas bear upon the present,” he says. “Leadership training, management, and problem solving skills take on a new depth of meaning in a historical context, and have a deeper impact when tempered with dramatic narrative, humor, and personal involvement.” A member of the National Speakers Association, National Association of Interpreters and a student of Lincoln himself, he has had opportunity to travel the world, portraying Lincoln on stage, in feature films, documentaries, and for many kinds of professional speaking engagements.
On May 24th, 2013 President Abraham Lincoln (Fritz Klein) spoke at the American Civil War memorial in Waterloo, New York. As keynote speaker at the annual Illumination Ceremony, He was asked to make some comments about the battles at Gettysburg and his part in the dedication of the cemetery. His comments conclude with his famous Gettysburg Address, recited as only the President could.