Green Clay (1757-1828) was a militia general, a wealthy Kentucky landowner, and the father of abolitionist Cassius Clay. Born in Powhatan County, Virginia, Clay trained as a surveyor and explored Kentucky as a member of a surveying team from 1777 to 1780, at which time he became deputy surveyor of Lincoln County, Kentucky, for the state of Virginia. His first military experience was as a militia lieutenant for George Rogers Clark's 1782 expedition against the Shawnee Indians in Ohio. He became justice of the peace and a commander of the militia in Madison County, Kentucky, in 1785.
Clay represented Madison County in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1788-1789 and, as a participant in the state's constitutional ratifying committee, voted against approving the document. After Kentucky became a state, Clay represented Madison County in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1793-94, and in the State Senate from 1795-1798 and 1802-1808. He was Kentucky speaker of the Senate from 1807-1808 and left state politics after losing the governor's race in 1808.
During the War of 1812, Clay was commissioned major general in charge of a contingent of Kentucky militia in support of Commander William Henry Harrison's forces in Ohio. On May 5, 1813, Clay and his militia came to the aid of Harrison’s beleaguered troops at Fort Meigs, which was under siege by British and Native American forces. The enemy retreated on May 9th, and Clay took command of Fort Meigs until the end of his enlistment.
Clay was one of the richest men in Kentucky; he owned vast tracts of land in the state and had investments in farming, a Tennessee resort in Estill Springs, warehouses, 2 distilleries, and several taverns where he sold bourbon whiskey. In 1795, Clay married Sarah (Sallie) Ann Lewis; they had six children, including the anti-slavery politician, Kentucky congressman, and Russian diplomat, Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810-1903).