Lewis Grizzard at Athens Daily News

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Grizzard reunion to feature lots of memorabilia, and even more stories

MORELAND - Lewis Grizzard, in the event of his death, wanted his ashes sprinkled on the 50-yard line of the University of Georgia's Sanford Stadium.

Carol Chancey, left, holds a few of Lewis Grizzard’s old record albums as she chats with Grizzard’s widow, Dedra Grizzard, at the Old Moreland Mill last week in Moreland. The mill will be the center of the Lewis Grizzard Hometown Reunion in Grizzard’s honor from Oct. 16-17
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Carol Chancey, left, holds a few of Lewis Grizzard’s old record albums as she chats with Grizzard’s widow, Dedra Grizzard, at the Old Moreland Mill last week in Moreland. The mill will be the center of the Lewis Grizzard Hometown Reunion in Grizzard’s honor from Oct. 16-17, 2010.
                                  
"We went to (former UGA head coach) Ray Goff. ... 'We can't give you permission, because if we give you permission, then every single person in the state of Georgia who's a Bulldawg is going to want their ashes sprinkled on (the 50-yard line).' He said, 'You're going to have to break in,' " said Dedra Grizzard, Lewis' widow.

Dedra Grizzard was Lewis' fourth wife and has provided memorabilia to help fill a new exhibit at the Old Moreland Mill dedicated to her late husband. Volunteers worked last week to set up the exhibit that officially will open during Moreland's Lewis Grizzard Hometown Reunion this Friday and Saturday.

For people across the country, Lewis brought Southern wit and quirkiness to life, but Moreland residents lived it and his connection to the place was a reoccurring theme in his 24 books and syndicated column published in more than 400 newspapers.

When Grizzard died after heart surgery in 1994, his wife had his body cremated and then set out to honor his wishes in the spring of the next year, she said. His friend, Steve Enoch, joined Dedra in her quest.

But the two didn't count on the construction workers building new skyboxes on the stadium when they broke in, Dedra Grizzard said.

"So we're out on the field - we're in the middle of the field - and I'm like, 'Steve the markers are gone. What are we going to do?' she said.

They loitered on the field long enough to attract the attention of the nearby workers, she said.

Steve called for immediate action as the workers started to come down from the skyboxes to challenge the uninvited guests standing on the unmarked field.

"He said 'Dedra, just throw the ashes ... Lewis will find the 50.' "

At the reunion, Dedra Grizzard is one of several people scheduled to tell stories about - or as Lewis would say, tell stories on - a man who came from a town populated with 400 people, covered sports for the Athens Daily News and wrote popular columns about his observations of life.

From the shock of Elvis' heart attack, to former Gov. Zell Miller's spending habits, to his fondness for alcohol, almost every thing was column fodder for Grizzard.

"He had a way to really get to the bottom of something, of really what most common people are thinking. He had a way to say it and get it in print that the average person on the street can't do without getting in trouble," said Mary Ann Cauthen, a cousin of Lewis' who grew up with him.

The hometown celebration is the first official reunion of Grizzard friends and family, although the town southwest of Atlanta has celebrated its witty native son before.

The first few years after Grizzard's death the town held a yearly barbecue feast in his honor and a small part-time Lewis memorabilia museum opened, said reunion organizer Carol Chancey, of Cloudland Canyon Entertainment LLC.

But the museum isn't staffed on a regular basis and sometimes was locked when people wanted to get in, Chancey said.

"I've heard about the ebb and flow of the efforts to really secure Lewis' legacy in his hometown," she said.

Chancey, who lived near one of Lewis' childhood friends for a time, marketed to Moreland residents the idea of a bigger museum at the Old Moreland Mill as well as a full weekend of Lewis stories.

This weekend's events include a grit-cooking contest, a parade and a re-release of Grizzard's "They Tore My Heart Out & Stomped That Sucker Flat."

"It's great because his writings and everything put us on the map," said Moreland Mayor Josh Evans. "It might inspire some other famous writers."

Writer Erskine Caldwell also was born in Moreland and the mill houses relics of Caldwell's life.

Chancey hopes to one day have enough space in the old mill to integrate objects and stories from both writers, along with a host of multimedia options for Moreland residents and visitors to enjoy, she said.

Much of the items on display now come from family members, Chancey said. Some objects, like a quilt made with patches of his baby pajamas, connect directly to Grizzard's childhood.

As a youngster, Lewis would tease his cousins and pined for the a baseball field, Cauthen said.

"Lewis would always have a stick and he would be knocking rocks," she said. "He was going to be a famous ball player, and that's what he'd do (to practice)."

His high school English teacher encouraged him to work on his writing and Lewis' talent started to blossom under her guidance, Cauthen said.

Grizzard wrote his first news story at age 10 for the Newnan Times-Herald, a newspaper near Moreland, and covered his own baseball team's victory, according to his book "If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, I'm Going to Nail My Feet to the Ground."

"Brilliant Moreland right-hander Lewis Grizzard, in his first start in organized baseball, baffled the visiting Macedonia Baptist nine Saturday afternoon with a no-hitter. Dudley Stamps, in a lesser role, had three home runs in the 14-0 romp."

Grizzard went on the write for the Daily News, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Chicago Sun-Times.

But even with his success, Lewis' personal life was bumpy and he alienated some people with his views on topics like homosexuality and feminism.

He divorced three times and never had any children - something he started missing after meeting Dedra's 18-month old daughter, Jordan.

"Lewis and Jordan fell in love," Dedra Grizzard said.

He adopted Jordan and married Dedra after more than four years of courtship.

Grizzard died four days later in the spring of 1994.

Moreland still is a small town and populated with the kinds of characters who - even now - will stop their horse-drawn buggies in the middle of the street to gossip.

But people today, including some in Moreland, don't remember Lewis Grizzard, Cauthen said.

"Everything was more together. Everything was more local," she said.

Although the volunteers who are setting up the museum want to draw in tourist dollars, several said they want back that feeling of community.

That feeling was one of the things Grizzard documented and cherished, Cauthen said.

"Lewis always knew that he could come back," she said. "The door was always open."

Originally published in the Athens Banner-Herald on Sunday, October 10, 2010

 

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HISTORICAL TRIBUTES HOME

Humorist Lewis Grizzard, right, with Bulldogs coach Vince Dooley in 1967, started his journalism career in Athens, Ga. and covered Georgia football that year as the Athens Daily News Sports Editor, while he was a 21-year-old UGA student. Before moving up the road about 60 miles to the Atlanta Journal,

Humorist Lewis Grizzard started his journalism career in Athens, Ga. and covered the UGA Bulldogs in 1967 as the Athens Daily News Sports Editor, at the age of 21. "Hold On! Here Come the 'Dogs" appeared in the 1967 season preview and likened the Classic City to a 'school girl out for her first big fling on the town.'

Lewis Grizzard became synonymous with his love for the Georgia Bulldogs.

"Yabba Dabba Doooo-ley..." vs. Miss. State Sept. 24, 1967.

Page 2 - Mississippi State article.

"That theah rock shore must'uve helped us out theah Satiddy" Tuesday Sept. 26, 1967 by a young Lewis Grizzard drew the wrath of Clemson coach Frank Howard, who threatned to sue. Check out the column on the left of this page for more.

Lewis Grizzard honed his humor and drew the ire of Clemson coach and athletic director Frank Howard with a poke at Howard's southern drawl in a September 1967 column. Of course Howard threatened to sue the young writer when the piece appeared in print.

"Football At Its Very Best" vs. Clemson October 1, 1967.

Clemson game continued.

"Cock-a-Dooley-Do!" vs. South Carolina October 8, 1967.

South Carolina game article continued.

"Awful, Awful Night in Jackson," against Ole Miss on October 15, 1967.

"Awful, Awful Night in Jackson," against Ole Miss ( continued ) on October 15, 1967. Humorist Lewis Grizzard started his journalism career in Athens, Ga. and covered the UGA Bulldogs in 1967 as the Athens Daily News Sports Editor while still in college. You can also read about Kenny Stabler in the UPI story on the left.

"Too Bad About Those Nice Keydets" vs. VMI October 22, 1967.

"Too Bad About Those Nice Keydets" vs. VMI October 22, 1967. ( continued )

"Cats Fall to Georgia Defense" October 29, 1967.

"Cats Fall to Georgia Defense" October 29, 1967. ( continued )

"Houston's Gipson Is Unbelievable!" November 5, 1967.

"Houston's Gipson Is Unbelievable!" November 5, 1967. ( continued ) Humorist Lewis Grizzard started his journalism career in Athens, Ga. and covered the UGA Bulldogs in 1967 as the Athens Daily News Sports Editor, at the age of 21.

"Where Oh Where will Dogs, Gators Play?" November 10, 1967.

"Bulldogs Drop a Heartbreaker" to Florida November 12, 1967. ( continued )

"Bulldogs Drop a Heartbreaker" to Florida November 12, 1967.

"Dogs Hungry, Tiger on Menu" November 18, 1967.

Georgia - Auburn comments by Lewis Grizzard - 1976

"Defense Beats the Tigers Cold" vs. Auburn during Homecoming on November 19, 1967.

"Stubborn 'Pack Holds Off 'Dogs" in the December 17, 1967 Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

"Stubborn 'Pack Holds Off 'Dogs" in the December 17, 1967 Liberty Bowl in Memphis.

Lewis Grizzard makes an "A" in the Latin class he was worried about and his newspaper colleagues write a story about it in the December 17, 1967 issue. Humorist Grizzard started his journalism career in Athens, Ga. and covered the UGA Bulldogs in 1967 as the Athens Daily News Sports Editor, at age 21 while still in college.

"People Paper Prognostications" was the Phearless Phorecast headline on September 23, 1967 when Lewis Grizzard, left, and the Athens Daily News staff had some phun guessing how the '67 college football season would play out. The humorist started his journalism career in Athens, Ga. and Grizzard covered the UGA Bulldogs in 1967 as the Athens Daily News Sports Editor, at age of 21. Before moving up the road about 60 miles to the Atlanta Journal, Grizzard probably had his hand in some of these catchy Daily News headlines, "Yabba Dabba Doooley...," "Where oh Where will Dogs, Gators Play," and "Dogs Hungry, Tigers on Menu." And who can forget the tongue-in-cheek look at Clemson coach Frank Howard that riled him so much that Howard threatened to sue?

Lewis grizzard was a Bulldog untill the end.