A review of the news that made The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s front pages through the decades.

Note: This story was updated March 23, 2021

When Larry Flynt died Feb. 10 of this year at his Los Angeles home, he was over 2,200 miles away from Lawrenceville, Ga., where he was shot in 1978 by serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin.

Flynt, best known for publishing Hustler magazine and for numerous First Amendment legal battles, left a fortune estimated at more than $100 million. He was 78.


Original story from March 2019

Today’s AJC Deja News comes to you from the Tuesday, March 7, 1978, edition of The Atlanta Constitution.


LARRY FLYNT, LAWYER ‘CRITICAL’ AFTER LAWRENCEVILLE SHOOTING

When Hustler Magazine publisher Larry Flynt walked out of the V&J Cafeteria in Lawrenceville just before noon on Monday, March 6, 1978, he and his attorney, Gene Reeves, were both shot and seriously wounded by an unknown assailant. The pair had been heading back to the Gwinnett County Courthouse for the continuation of Flynt’s obscenity trial.

Constitution reporters Jerry Schwartz, Mindy Fetterman and Tony Healy brought readers a detailed account of the events.

“Flynt had entered what was to have been the final day of his trial on charges of distributing obscene materials,” the story said. “During the morning, he had taken the stand for about an hour and a half to convince a six-member jury that his sexually explicit Hustler magazine was a 'satire' and a 'put-on.'"

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Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt is carried into Emory Hospital by EMTs on March 9, 1978. Flynt, shot in the abdomen, was taken on the day of the shooting, March 6, to Button Gwinnett Hospital, where he underwent surgery. Doug Campbell, Flynt's personal administrator, said "Physically, he's in a precarious position right now and he's aware of that."

Credit: AJC FILE

Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt is carried into Emory Hospital by EMTs on March 9, 1978. Flynt, shot in the abdomen, was taken on the day of the shooting, March 6, to Button Gwinnett Hospital, where he underwent surgery. Doug Campbell, Flynt's personal administrator, said "Physically, he's in a precarious position right now and he's aware of that."

Credit: AJC FILE

Combined ShapeCaption
Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt is carried into Emory Hospital by EMTs on March 9, 1978. Flynt, shot in the abdomen, was taken on the day of the shooting, March 6, to Button Gwinnett Hospital, where he underwent surgery. Doug Campbell, Flynt's personal administrator, said "Physically, he's in a precarious position right now and he's aware of that."

Credit: AJC FILE

Credit: AJC FILE

“Flynt and Reeves, according to witnesses, left the cafeteria about three minutes before noon and were walking north on Perry Street toward the courthouse,” the Constitution reported. “Reeves was shot first... and fell to the sidewalk... Flynt, about 40 feet away [from Reeves], fell at the entrance to a driveway.”

Investigators from the State Crime lab found spent .44 Magnum shells at the scene.

Judge Hughel Harrison declared a mistrial after the shooting. But in March 1979, Flynt was convicted in a Fulton County trial of violating state obscenity laws and was sentenced to pay a $27,500 fine.

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In June 1984, Joseph Paul Franklin, a self-avowed white supremacist, was indicted by a Gwinnett grand jury and charged with aggravated assault in the 1978 shootings of Flynt and Reeves. Franklin said he shot Flynt because of interracial content in his magazines.

A serial killer who may have killed up to 22 people, Franklin was executed by lethal injection in Missouri in November 2013. He was never convicted of shooting Flynt.

Flynt was left paralyzed from the waist down by the attack. Reeves recovered and went on to become a judge in Gwinnett. He died in July 2015. Flynt is now 76. His privately-held company, Larry Flynt Publications, publishes a pornographic magazine titled Barely Legal.

In the 41 years since Flynt's trial, Gwinnett County has changed mightily. It's home to over 900,000 people and its days as a rural neighbor to Atlanta are long in the past. But some things have remained the same; Gwinnett still has strict obscenity laws in place aimed at keeping strip clubs, sex shops and other adult entertainment venues from easily doing business in the county. Recently, Gwinnett has tried to restrict sex shops to special industrial areas via zoning laws.

Opinions may always differ on exactly what constitutes obscenity or how and where adult-oriented items can be sold, but the Flynt shooting left Gwinnetians in a similar mindset back in the spring of 1978: they were sorry that it happened and angry that it occurred in their county. And they had sympathy for Flynt, even if they disagreed with his line of business.

Most folks interviewed by Constitution and wire staffers in 1978 echoed the sentiments of one anonymous Lawrenceville resident who said “I don’t believe those magazines are any good but I don’t think he should have been shot for it.”


ABOUT DEJA NEWS

In this highly irregular series, we scour the AJC archives for the most interesting news from days gone by, show you the original front page and update the story.

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