For all of the detractors, there were fans by the score. He published more than 20 books (18 of them New York Times bestsellers), made popular concert appearances and acted in an episode of “Designing Women,” starring as Clayton Sugarbaker, the half-brother of Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker. He was so popular in Atlanta that Creative Loafing had to create a category in its annual poll for “Best Columnist Besides Lewis Grizzard.”
Upon his death in 1994 at age 47, the AJC editorial board wrote: “To readers across the nation, Lewis Grizzard was Atlanta, The Journal, and the South. In the tradition of Southern humorists, he found in the distinctiveness of the South, its people and their ordinary lives and pleasures the material to entertain a nation. His genuine delight, and the humor he found, in the passions and rituals of the Southern town — family, food and football — anchored us all to the memories we cherish and the places we wanted to be. Even as he reminded us that the South is changing incomprehensibly fast, his wit offered safe harbor from our fears that the region we love is losing its uniqueness.”
A congenital heart defect finally resisted one final effort to repair it on March 20, 1994. Had he survived his troublesome heart, Grizzard would have been 75 years old on Oct. 20, 2021.
Grizzard was honored in 2019 by his addition to the Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame.
Here are a few of readers’ favorite columns by Grizzard, a handful of the many published in the days following his death, along with a remembrance by late AJC sports editor Furman Bisher and a gallery of photos:
A special woman: For a mother on her day
The good life: Me in my Guccis
On food: I ate breakfast — and lived
Southern ways: Chicago-like weather chills urge to gloat
My Mama’s pain over; I still hurt
Bisher: Grizzard ‘so young’ but not for us to say
Thank God, we now can preserve blessed Vidalias
The Varsity: Chili dog lover copes with that bark
Photos: Remembering Lewis Grizzard
Bill Oberst reads one of Grizzard’s classic columns about UGA football