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Left to right, Julie Asher, Paul Fletcher, Caroline Cardwell and Brian Eckert read during a wreath-laying ceremony at the George Mason Memorial Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011.

The Society of Professional Journalists, Virginia Pro chapter, will hold its annual tribute to George Mason, founder and the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the model for the Bill of Rights, Dec. 16.

Honoring Mason around his birthday (Dec. 11) has become a tradition at SPJVA, and this year’s program has two parts:

WREATH-LAYING. At 11 a.m. we will hold a wreath-laying ceremony, including a public reading of the Virginia Declaration, at the beautiful George Mason Memorial in West Potomac Park, Washington, D.C. There is plenty of parking, and the walkway to the memorial is well-marked. Information about the memorial, including directions, can be found at http://www.nps.gov/gemm/index.htm

NPR COUNSEL’S TALK. At 2 p.m., Ashley Messenger, associate general counsel of National Public Radio and 1st Amendment expert, will speak at Gunston Hall, Mason’s historic plantation, 10709 Gunston Rd., Mason’s Neck, Va. (near Lorton). Gunston Hall information and directions can be found at http://www.gunstonhall.org.

In addition to the program, SPJ members may tour the preserved plantation house and grounds and shop for holiday gifts at Gunston Hall’s outstanding museum store. Admission will not be charged to SPJ members, although a $10 donation is recommended.

In between the wreath-laying in D.C. and the program at Gunston Hall, SPJVA members and guests will stop for lunch in the Lorton area, just off I-95.

Transportation from Richmond will be by carpool from (???), leaving at 8:30 a.m. sharp and returning around 6 p.m. All SPJ members and friends are invited to meet up with the Richmond group at the Mason Memorial.

Mason is sometimes called the “forgotten founder,” because he refused to vote for or sign the Constitution because it lacked a Bill of Rights. Mason’s call for abolishing slavery under the Constitution left him an outcast among Southern political leaders. The Virginia Pro chapter gives an annual award named for Mason to someone who has made a lasting contribution to journalism in the commonwealth.

For more information, please contact SPJVA President Paul Fletcher at paul.fletcher@valawyersmedia.com or 804-783-0770, x 14016.

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