Monticello not the only TJ mansion
A few hundred supporters turned out on a rainy Thursday evening to show that Monticello isn't the only house Thomas Jefferson loved to visit. A giant tent kept the rain off the black-tie-clad diners who assembled June 5 at Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson's secluded getaway house on the southwestern outskirts of Lynchburg. Of course, the crowd also wanted to hear famed actors Robert Duvall (Tender Mercies, The Godfather, and Apocalypse Now) and Connie Britton (The Brothers McMullen, televison's Friday Night Lights and 24) read early19th century letters. In Duvall's case, the letters came from TJ himself, while Britton, who grew up in Lynchburg and whose late father served on Poplar Forest's governing board, read excerpts from letters penned by Jefferson's granddaughters. Among the attendees at this event celebrating 25 years of restoration was Dale Harris, a former judge who earned her 1978 UVA Law School degree by commuting from Lynchburg and whose family used to own Poplar Forest as a summer house. An up-and-coming writer/director who grew up in Abingdon and went to college at Hampden-Sydney, Scott Cooper introduced Duvall. Nobody strayed too far from their script, but Northern Virginia resident Duvall made the crowd smile when he remarked that his wife thinks Virginia's a stopping point to heaven. "If this is the last station before heaven," said Duvall, "then what a great launching pad this is."