A MEETING FOR MINDS

In Backlight on August 8, we asked readers if they could tell us what circumstances brought together this group of Northerners and Southerners. We had no clue, other than the identities of Adm. David G. Farragut (left) and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (fourth from left), plus some other names unattached to faces.

Now we know: The picture was taken at the Willard Hotel, in February 1867, at the founding of the Peabody Education Fund, which was established by the Northern philanthropist George Peabody (seated next to Farragut) to help Southern states rebuild their education systems after the Civil War. To our surprise, we discovered that this is only half the picture -- the other half, projecting out from Farragut's right elbow, included the rest of the fund's trustees. Other than Farragut, Peabody and Grant, the other six pictured here are, from left: Hamilton Fish of New York, William Aiken of South Carolina, Robert Charles Winthrop of Massachusetts, Charles Pettit McIlvaine of Ohio, William Cabell Rives of Virginia and Samuel Wetmore of New York.

For their help in sorting this out, we thank Mary Ann Turner of the Yale Peabody Museum, New Haven, Conn.; Scott Harris of the Manassas Museum System; Sherrill Modlin of Severna Park, Md.; Keir B. Sterling of the Army Combined Arms Support Command in Fort Lee, Va.; and George Peabody of Washington, a distant relative of the philanthropist.

GILMORE AND TAXATION

IN GARRETT EPPS'S ARTICLE "NEW Dominion" [August 15], discussing Gov. Jim Gilmore and Virginia's car tax, he makes the following statement: "And to make matters worse, the tax was regressive -- it applied to only the first $20,000 of assessed value, meaning that the owner of a new quarter-million-dollar Rolls Royce paid the same dollar amount as the owner of a new Ford Taurus."

In fact, prior to the "No Car Tax" legislation, the local personal property tax on vehicles was applied uniformly to the entire assessed value of all vehicles -- thus, the owner of a Rolls Royce did pay a greater amount than the owner of a Ford Taurus. There was nothing regressive about it. All vehicles under Virginia law were reassessed annually and the tax was applied to the current assessed value. Under the new legislation passed in 1998, the tax relief applies only to the first $20,000 of assessed value of a vehicle. The full tax is still paid on the remaining value of a vehicle assessed at greater than $20,000. Thus, when the car tax relief legislation is fully implemented in 2002, the owner of a vehicle assessed at more than $20,000 will still pay the full tax on that portion of the assessed value which exceeds $20,000.

LINDA G. ROBINSON

Legislative liaison, Henrico County, Va.

IN HIS ARTICLE ON GOV. GILMORE, Garrett Epps forgot to mention that Hugh Finn, whose controversial death Gilmore tried to prevent, was conscious much of the time and able to communicate through facial movements, according to family members.

Epps may not approve of the fact that Gov. Gilmore intervened to keep a man from starving to death against his will. (Personally, were I in such a situation, I'd be glad to have a man like the governor in my corner.) But he should at least tell the whole story, and let his readers make up their minds for themselves.

GINA DALFONZO

Springfield

WHILE I ENJOYED GARRETT EPPS'S INsightful article, his characterization of young Jim Gilmore as "a band geek" was descriptive, but unnecessarily pejorative. Journalists, as well as public officials, ought not use diction that legitimizes or dignifies the social hierarchy prevalent in too many school cultures, in which athletics is afforded a higher status than the arts.

DEL. JOHN R. LEOPOLD

Maryland House of Delegates, Annapolis

ROCK CREEK FOR PEOPLE

I HAD NO IDEA THINGS HAD GONE this far on the move to build a 130-foot antenna in Rock Creek Park [Potomac Confidential, August 15]. I have lived in D.C. most of my life, and our whole family used to catch three buses from Southeast to go to the zoo and walk in the park. My mother would pack up enough food for all six of us, and then sit by the creek while we roamed the park. When I was pregnant during one of the hottest summers on record, I had to be driven through the park every single night. The air beneath the trees was a godsend.

Does that mean anything to people like Sen. Tom Daschle? To have a park like ours in the middle of a city is such a blessing -- maybe it is time to push for No Cars in Rock Creek Park again!

PAULETTE RABIA RAYFORD

Washington

LATE FOR DINNER

IN HER CRITIQUE OF THE MATISSE Cafe Restaurant [Dining, August 22], Phyllis Richman writes, "The interior designer knew what he was doing. Nobody else at Matisse seems to." Ms. Richman immediately contradicts herself: "One Saturday night," she continues, "we arrive just before 7, apologetically late for our 6:30 reservation. The hostess is unforgiving. She's given away our table."

I'd say the hostess knew exactly what she was doing. Anyone who makes a reservation and is then nearly half an hour late has no reason to complain.

Ms. Richman sniffs that her party was assigned seats at two "high cocktail tables," where they sat "feet dangling, from drinks through dessert." She should know that being late is insulting to the busy restaurateur who depends on reasonably prompt patrons to maintain a smooth flow of service to all. Perhaps that high chair she was assigned was appropriate after all.

WES PEDERSEN

Chevy Chase

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