May 23, 2024

What would Lewis Grizzard have to say today?


            Jennifer Garner asks, “What’s in your wallet?”

            The smiling Hollywood star hopes you’ll say, “A Capital One credit card.” In my wallet there is too much stuff—other than money—that ought to be weeded out and tossed.

            But Jennifer’s question made me wonder, “What’s on my office wall?”

            When I looked up, the first thing that I saw was The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mike Luckovich’s 1994 cartoon of Lewis Grizzard’s black Lab, Catfish, greeting the syndicated columnist at The Pearly Gates.

            And that made me imagine: “If Lewis were alive, what would he have to say about all that’s going on in the world today?”

            He’d have plenty of comments, but his editors would stay busy reminding him: “Lewis, you can’t say that. This is 2024.”

            But I remember a time that Lewis’ editors balked in the 1980s, too.

            I was in Billy Poppell’s office at the Buick dealership—selling an ad—when Lewis tracked me down. “Dink,” he said, “the paper’s lawyer wants to talk to you about a column that I’ve written.”

            The attorney was nervous that Lewis might get the paper sued over his Alex Hopkins column. I had invited Lewis to be the keynote speaker at the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce banquet. Afterwards, Bob Smith introduced Alex to Lewis.

            Back to the phone call.

 I asked the attorney to read the column draft. When he was done, I said, “Counselor, the best defense for libel is the truth. And everything Lewis has written is the truth. Most people in my hometown have heard those same stories dozens of times.”

Lewis told about football coach Clint Madray wrestling Alex to win the light poles for Jesup High School’s new baseball diamond. And then he recounted when IRS agents traveled to Pendarvis to audit Alex’s depreciation of his logging equipment. The feds left in a hurry without the audit. Don’t know either of those stories? Ask around. Both were classic Alex. If you don’t laugh, you should go the doctor. Something might be wrong with you.

But the AJC’s lawyer must not have had a sense of humor. He changed Alex’s name to “Paul” in a South Georgia town.

Lewis was an avid golfer and tennis player. So, before the chamber banquet, he wanted to squeeze in a tennis match. But Lewis was distracted at the Pine Forest Country Club.

He said, “Hey, can you introduce me to that beautiful lady over on the other court?” (Lewis was an infamous ladies’ man. Married multiple times, he once quipped that the next time that he met a woman who didn’t like him … rather than marry her … he’d just buy her a house.)

“No,” I said. “Yes, she is beautiful. And, yes, I know her husband. He will hurt you if you go over there flirting.”

Lewis listened, but I guess that’s why he wound up at the Her Night Out club after the chamber banquet. He might have met some women, but he really remembered Alex.

The last time I saw Lewis was at a Georgia football game. Our tailgate spots were near each other—behind the physics building—next to the bridge and Sanford Stadium.

I walked over to say hello. Lewis was perched in a folding chair, behind a stretch limousine, and “holding court.” Emaciated and wearing dark glasses, he said, “Dink, if I had known that I was going to live this damn long, I would have taken better care of myself.” Indeed. A few months later, the popular columnist and author was dead at age 47.

That was 30 years ago.

His words—in 2024—would probably have kept him and his editors on the hot seat. And speaking of hot, whew, it’s already scorching. And here come the flip-flops and sandals. But you’ll never see my hairy toes.


            I agree with Lewis.

            “Jesus was the last man to look good in sandals.”