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Foundations conflict over names, Hemmings situation

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which has claimed that Thomas Jefferson may not have fathered children with Sally Hemmings, a former Monticello slave, has changed its name to the Thomas Jefferson Heritage society in the face of pending trademark legislation.

U.S. District Court Judge James H. Michael Jr. issued a preliminary injunction in May barring The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Inc. from operating under that name.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in September.

The group that owns Monticello, The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, filed a suit claiming the Thomas Jefferson Foundation's name is confusingly similar to their own.

"Thomas Jefferson Foundation is virtually identical to Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation and the two names historically have been used interchangeably in the media and general public," Memorial Foundation President Dan Jordan said.

But John H. Works Jr, Thomas Jefferson Heritage Society president, said the Memorial Foundation filed the suit because it wants to drop Memorial from its name and become the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.

"We alone -- by ourselves -- debated for several weeks what to call ourselves," Works said. "We had no idea, after 73 years, they would drop the Memorial from their name."

Jordan said the Memorial Foundation did vote to omit Memorial from its name in April "to clarify the name, because some people thought we were associated with the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C."

Other tension between the two groups centers on Thomas Jefferson's relationship with Hemmings.

Monday, a year after the Memorial Foundation released a report stating that Jefferson probably fathered children with Hemmings, The Heritage Society formed a group of scholars to reinvestigate the issue.

According to Jordan of the Monticello group, the Heritage Society "took great offense at our scholarly report on Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings."

Works called the Memorial Foundation's report "shallow, shoddy and biased."

"Our report is going to lay it out there and necessarily probably embarrass them," Works said.