Posted by: furmanbisher | December 5, 2011

Remembering Grizzard

Lewis Grizzard’s name popped into my head the other day, for no particular reason. Just the image—the shaggy hair, the moustache, the glasses, the kid. Long before he became a national rage. If you had told him then that one of these days he was going to be on the Johnny Carson Show, he’d’ve barked, “I’m available.”  He actually had no such ambition. All he ever wanted to be was sports editor of The Atlanta Journal. He got close—executive sports editor, a glorified title that meant he dealt in the drudge of producing a daily sports section. Handling eight or ten staffers, laying out pages, making assignments, which also meant irritating eight or ten of his  closest friends, two of whom walked out.

While working for me, Lewis himself began looking around for an escape, for this was not what he had dreamt. I was at the World Series when I got a call from the managing editor of the Chicago  Sun-Times. He needed an executive sports editor; Lewis had applied and used me as a reference. He wasn’t going away mad, at least. Lewis the made the worst decision of his life, as it would  turn out. He went to Chicago, and he hated Chicago from the beginning and even worse when he left. Just bailed out. Didn’t have a job, nothing in mind but to get the hell out of Chicago. He’d had enough of me and besides, I had another sports page produced then. So where to turn but to Jim Minter, who by then was editor of The Constitution.

Now, there is no better newspaperman in the world than Jim Minter, and when Lewis came in, hat in hand, he told Jim he had a column in mind. Jim said, “Knock out a  column and let me take a look.”

I’ve never seen that column, but from took place after that, there’s no doubt that  Minter was impressed. Not any of the kind of stuff that later made Grizzard a coast to coast toast apparently, but enough for Minter to tell him to suit up. No doubt that Lewis could handle the English language, but what developed was a vocabulary and a genre never invaded by any newspaper columnist, and you know the rest of that story.

What a shame those columns can’t be reproduced for readers today, to give them a touch of Grizzard’s world. He took flight and when he came back to earth, we developed a worthwhile friendship . He even dedicated a book to me, and I take pride  most of all in his inscription:  “To Bisher, who was right all along.”

“Scuse me while I dry the tears.


Responses

  1. Furman, of course no excuse is necessary. Thousands upon thousands of us miss Lewis. Fotunately there are his books to which we can often turn to. Lest I forget, Merry Christmas to you and yours, Furman.

    Ralph Reimers

  2. I pine for the days of the anticipation of both yours and his articles. Time and life moves on but as a History teacher I can honestly tell my kids that things in your profession were better ‘back in the day’. Just glad God has left you here to remind us all of the quality professional work ya`ll churned out when newspapers were king.

  3. My wife and I took a journey down to Columbus today from our southside Atlanta home, and when that big green sign alongside I-85 popped into view just past Newnan, my mind raced back to those tales and columns I so enjoyed years ago…..”Moreland, Ga”. It was home for Lewis, just a little country hamlet, but oh what stories poured forth from the son of that little patch of ground.
    Not long ago, I found on the web….and listened to… Lewis’s telling of a famous joke of his. The one about the “lone confederate soldier on top of Stone Mt.” I’m still chuckling. RIP, Lewis.

  4. I check this website once a week or so, always looking forward to your next posting. It’s a nice bonus to find two today.

    A few years ago, I found a website of Grizzard’s columns. I was busy reading through them, but one day the site was removed. Ouch! I guess some copyright thing was infringed.

    Born and raised in Newnan, Georgia, but now residing in South Africa.

  5. I remember fondly looking at the Sunday paper, Grizzard down one side of the sports section, Bisher on the other side. Unfortunately, the Atlanta paper has certainly not been as good as it once was with both of you gone.

    I recently picked up nearly all of ‘brother’ Lewis’ paperback books at a used book store in Chattanooga. I wonder how many nickels his little brother Jimmy got for the operation for those.🙂

    A humor long remembered, and a man that has the same. I’m sure when Larry Munson got to heaven, he went up on Lewis’ front porch and sat a spell and caught up with him.


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