Lewis Grizzard – Gone But Not Forgotten

October 20, 2011 6:02 am

by Obi's Sister · 26 comments

Today would have been Lewis Grizzard’s 65th birthday. His humor and legacy lives on at his website. There’s even a tribute show. Sprayberry’s BBQ named a plate after him. And it’s good, too!

Being Southern, and Georgian in particular, is truly a gift that other Americans simply don’t understand. Lewis could articulate that sentiment better than anyone I’ve heard or read since. After all he said, “God talks like us.”

Fall always reminds me of Lewis since we share a beloved alma mater. His stories about UGA football strike such a chord, sometimes it seems his ghost is still on campus.

T. Kyle King of Dawgsports.com remembers Lewis tailgating before games near his dorm.

During my first two years as a student at the University of Georgia, I lived on campus in Myers Hall. In the fall, Dad would come into town on Saturdays and park next to my dorm, then we would walk down the hill to the stadium for the game.

There, tailgating between two parked cars across from the G.G.S. Building, would be Lewis Grizzard, identifiable by his familiar voice and lack of socks. Dad and I would nod and say hello without breaking stride, but we never bothered him because he wasn’t there as a famous writer; he was there as a fan—as one of us—and it didn’t seem right to disturb him.

Knowing what we now know about Lewis Grizzard’s life—about his inner demons, his excessive drinking, his failed marriages, his absent father, and his health problems—it may well have been the case that what we saw on Saturday mornings were the happiest moments of the syndicated author’s earthly existence. He may never have been more at peace than he was when standing within sight of Sanford Stadium, awaiting kickoff with a chicken leg in one hand and a Jack and Coke in the other.

Mr. King is right. Lewis would have loved Coach Mark Richt.

ToonDawg over at the Anti-Orange Page remembers Lewis firing up the Redcoats before the 1993 Citrus Bowl.

When UGA participated in the 1993 Citrus Bowl versus Ohio State, the Redcoats had to perform at a pep rally at Seaworld. Well, we had already marched in about three or four other parades and had been getting up at seven each morning. Needless to say, we were pooped, and I wasn’t exactly thrilled about doing another parade. As soon as we got up to the front of the crowd, who did we see on stage but ole Lewis himself. I immediately forgot all about my weariness as soon as he started speaking about UGA vs. Ohio State. I wish I could remember his entire speech, but I was laughing too hard. Basically it was about how any Southern team can beat up on a Yankee team, especially UGA.

Over the years, many have compared him to Mark Twain. But Lewis’ tales were more personal. He struck a chord with those of us who complained about the never-ending construction on Peachtree Street, but inwardly welcomed the growth and change because it meant prosperity for Georgia. We all had mamas and grandmothers that instructed with Juicy Fruit gum in one hand and switches in the other. We all celebrated victories and agonized over defeats. We all wept at the death of a beloved dog.

Sometimes I wonder how Lewis would react to today’s media, the hyper-sensitivity of modern society, expensive micro-brewed beer and dogs that fit in purses. He wrote 25 books – just think of the wealth of material he’d have today!

Share your favorite Lewis story/memory in the comments below. And remember, “Be Sweet.”

UPDATE:

Lewis at the Pearly Gates / Mike Luckovich AJC

Thanks Dave in the comments! I had originally planned to include the cartoon, then thought less was better. I should have known better because with Lewis, less was never better. And like Dave, I have a copy of it on my desk. Lewis died four months after Catfish. The story Dave refers to was included in Lewis’ obituary.

Dave October 20, 2011 at 6:50 am

A great, great human being! I have the column he wrote about the death of his black lab, Catfish, framed on my wall along with the color drawing of Lewis entering heaven and being met by Catfish. It’s the best cartoon Luckovich ever drew.

James Fannin October 20, 2011 at 9:07 am

Oh how Atlanta misses Lewis Grizzard. I have at least 20 Grizzard stories on my iPod. My favorite punchlines, “that dog would bite you” and “I don’t believe Ida tole that” are two enduring favorites among many. He was a treasure and the AJC has been in a hopeless downward spiral ever since he left and they essentially banned anyone from writing at the paper who actually knew anything about Georgia. Thanks so much for remembering Lewis. Atlanta has never been the same without him.

drjay October 20, 2011 at 9:21 am

my step father introduced me to lewis grizzard when i was in 8th grade, he had a casette of lewis telling his stories that i slap wore out, i still use the phrase about “two mules fighting over a turnip” to describe a boring event. my step dad is a techie but still had great respect for and was a big fan of grizzard’s…and i ended up being a sigma pi at uga, just like lewis…

Charlie October 20, 2011 at 9:38 am

“because with Lewis, less was never better.”

You clearly are forgetting about what may have been his best column ever.

Taking up the entirity of his usual space, the column was, in total:

Quite frankly, I don’t want to talk about it.

drjay October 20, 2011 at 9:47 am

“like”

Obi's Sister October 20, 2011 at 10:15 am

That was a dark day, indeed.

greencracker October 20, 2011 at 9:44 am

RIP Lewis. He’s on the same shelf with Jimmy Carter and Janisse Ray, but sets beside AB Longstreet.

Spacey G October 20, 2011 at 9:46 am

An alcoholic sexist racist redneck with a typerwriter and a few cheap whores for friends. Aspire to greatness, eh?

drjay October 20, 2011 at 9:48 am

why are you bringing hemingway into this?

Spacey G October 20, 2011 at 9:49 am

LOL!

greencracker October 20, 2011 at 9:53 am

+1!

Ken October 20, 2011 at 11:58 am

brilliant!

Three Jack October 20, 2011 at 10:08 am

my all time favorite…thanks for the column and reminder. my ‘nana’ used to cut out and mail his columns to me while i was stationed aboard ‘ike’ serving in the u.s. navy. i opened that envelope every week in anticipation of reading not only my grandmother’s letters, but the grizzard columns which always gave me a sense of home no matter where we were in the world.

my favorite, ‘delta is still ready when you are’ addressed to all the whining yankees who were infiltrating the south yet complained constantly about mosquitos, heat and the overall climate.

he died too young, i sure do miss his story telling.

Nathan October 20, 2011 at 10:15 am

He was taken away too early, but at least we have his books and recordings to enjoy for generations to come.

Lee Weber October 20, 2011 at 10:57 am

Excellent column. My favorite Grizzard line (which comes in handy when one of the folks from up North who now lives in God’s Country criticizes our sacred soil.)

“Delta is ready when you are.”

Gary Cooper October 20, 2011 at 11:02 am

Thank God Lewis lives on in books, media, and through memories. I remember reading Lewis’ columns and the tape my dad gave me of some of his best and funny stories. I’ll never forget “I never knew you were such a fan of monopoly. Yeah, and you never told me your daddy was a druggist”.

Happy Birthday Lewis Grizzard. The world was a better place when you were amongst us.

Ken October 20, 2011 at 11:50 pm

Well said.

slyram October 20, 2011 at 11:03 am

We loved this guy at the pol sci department of my Black college—when he called sushi bait and said he couldn’t remember his ex wives so he referred to them as plaintiff. I was in the basement of a club in Riga, Lativa, getting my coat and a Russian mob guy said something behind my back. I thought about Gizzard’s comment that he was going to nail his feet to the ground when he gets back to Georgia.

Dave October 20, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Please tell me you’re kidding, Spacey…

Ken October 20, 2011 at 12:36 pm

I never had the opportunity to speak to Lewis, though I did see him perform one night in Starkville, Mississippi. It was an August night in a hall without air conditioning and with Lewis there, it was, of course, packed. It was hot and sweaty and we all sat there enthralled as we listened to Georgia’s favorite son weave stories and tell jokes and (wince) sing. He was brilliant and we were as charmed and wide-eyed as a frat boy on his first visit to a strip club.

I bought a Lewis Grizzard mug that night to commemorate the event. I loved that mug; that tenuous link to a man who was a voice for an entire, misunderstood culture. I’m sure Lewis would understand when I explain, that somehow, it wound up in the possession of my ex-wife.

There will be no new reflections on Catfish; no news from Wayman C. Wannamaker, Jr., a great American (Could Sean Hannity have . . . ? Nah, unlikely.) and no more columns made up of Lewis’s replies to exasperated Yankees telling us “how we do it in Chicago”.

“Delta is ready when you are.”

In many ways Lewis Grizzard spoke for me and did it far better than I could have done it myself. Like I said, I never got to speak directly to Lewis; never shook his hand; never exchanged letters or postcards, but I sure do miss that man.

For those who do not remember Lewis, here is some of his work. Try it on for size: http://www.lewisgrizzard.com/

Gary Cooper October 20, 2011 at 1:34 pm

“how we do it in Chicago”

Remember, the only good thing to ever come out of Chicago was I65 south.

Dave October 20, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Obi, are you able to link to Lewis’ column where he told us all that Catfish had died? Not one dry eye will remain if you can!

Three Jack October 20, 2011 at 5:49 pm
Ken October 20, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Well done, sir!

Dave October 20, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Thanks, TJ…

SallyForth October 21, 2011 at 4:26 pm

O/S, good going girl – thanks for reminding us of this outstanding journalist and the many smiles he gave us who were fortunate enough to read his column with our morning coffee each day. Seeing/hearing Lewis in person made you laugh til it hurt, and anyone who never had that opportunity missed out.

Every time I hear Yankees deriding Southern-speak, I think of Lewis’ “God tawks like we do.” I’m also with him about people from everywhere else who whine about things they don’t like here – “Delta is ready when you are.” I related to his commiserating when assigned to Chicago – “As an Atlantan who was once held prisoner of war in Chicago, I know what it is like to be ravaged by homesickness. ”

I recall too many Lewis-isms for me to list them here, so I’ll close with one of my favorites: “A woman that’ll take your dog will cutcha!” RIP Lewis and thanks for leaving us so many good memories.

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