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IN RESPONSE to my last column, Bill...


IN RESPONSE to my last column, Bill Caltrider of Towson called to say that Woodrow Wilson went to Hopkins, not Princeton.

No, Bill, that's not what I got wrong in that column. Wilson started his higher education at Davidson in 1873, dropped out in his freshman year, entered Princeton (then called the College of New Jersey) in 1875 and graduated with the class of 1879. He entered the University of Virginia Law School that year, dropped out, passed the bar, practiced law a while in Atlanta, then in 1883, came to Hopkins to do graduate study. He got his Ph.D. here in 1886.

What I got wrong in that column was the assertion that George Bush would be 67 in November and Bill Clinton 46, which would be the second largest age gap between presidential candidates. I said the largest was that between James Buchanan and John C. Fremont in 1856. Bush turned 68 the very next day (how was I to know?). The true facts are, the Buchanan-Fremont gap was 21 years 273 days; the Bush-Clinton gap, 22 years 68 days.


David Alsobrook of Springfield, Va., corrects me on another historical point. I wrote that the Teddy bear was named after Teddy Roosevelt because he was photographed sparing the life of a little bear while on a hunting expedition after he left the White House. No, writes David, the picture of the president sparing a little bear was a political cartoon and appeared while TR was president.


Mitch Tullai of Brooklandville caught me on an error in a piece I did elsewhere in the paper. I said the Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution did nothing but change the terms of the president and Congress and that scholars disagreed on when an acting president would be chosen if the House deadlocked -- Jan. 20 (the new term beginning) or March 4 (as specified in the Twelfth Amendment). In fact, the Twentieth is clear that the vice president-elect becomes acting president on Jan. 20 if necessary. I should have written that one scholar had been quoted as saying the amendment was unclear on that point. Better yet, I should have re-read the amendment myself before writing.


Everybody makes mistakes. The day my column appeared, Ross Perot said on the "Today" show that Hope, Ark., is the watermelon capital of the world. It is not! I know because I started my journalistic career in the watermelon capital of the world -- Cordele, Ga. It said so every day in my paper, the Cordele Daily Dispatch.

The Dispatch's motto is, "It is better to light one small candle than sit and curse the darkness."

That was quite an inspiration to a young and idealistic reporter. I still think of it all the time.

Of course, after 27 years of writing editorials here, many of them critical and negative, I must tell you journalism students out there, cursing the darkness can be a heck of a lot of fun.

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