Richard Jewell, law enforcement to be honored at Centennial Olympic Park

Richard Jewell is swamped by the media in Atlanta upon arriving at his Buford Highway apartment after being interviewed at FBI headquarters on July 30, 1996. (Cox Staff Photo/Greg Lovett)

Richard Jewell is swamped by the media in Atlanta upon arriving at his Buford Highway apartment after being interviewed at FBI headquarters on July 30, 1996. (Cox Staff Photo/Greg Lovett)

More than 25 years after Richard Jewell’s quick thinking alerted authorities to the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, the heroic security guard will be honored along with law enforcement officers who responded to the July 27, 1996 attack.

At 11 a.m. Wednesday, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority will host a dedication ceremony at the Quilt of Remembrance, a park memorial already honoring the two people who died and 111 injured as a result of the bombing.

“Please join Georgia World Congress Center Authority for a dedication ceremony commemorating Richard Jewell and the law enforcement community for their bravery, vigilance and commitment to protecting the public on July 27, 1996,” an event announcement said.

The subject of a book and movie about the incident, the late Jewell saved countless lives only to have his turned upside down. He alerted authorities to the suspicious knapsack that held a bomb, helped evacuate the area and quickly earned national acclaim for his bravery.

Days later, he became the FBI’s chief suspect, as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media outlets reported. Jewell was cleared after 88 days and confessed serial bomber Eric Robert Rudolph is serving multiple life sentences.

The AJC was among the media outlets sued after Jewell was exonerated, and the only one that didn’t settle. Litigation naming the AJC was dismissed in 2011, when the Georgia Court of Appeals concluded “the articles in their entirety were substantially true at the time they were published.” Jewell died in 2007 at the age of 44.

This front page of The Atlanta Journal from July 30, 1996, was accurate yet infamous. But more than a week later there was another front-page story by a different reporter for this same newspaper that turned the Olympic Park bombing case against Richard Jewell upside down.

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In 2019, the story of the bombing and Jewell hit the big screen in “Richard Jewell,” a movie directed by Clint Eastwood.

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Director Clint Eastwood, left, and Paul Walter Hauser on the Atlanta set of “Richard Jewell,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. CLAIRE FOLGER/WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.

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Eastwood and cast members Paul Walter Hauser, who starred in the title role, Jon Hamm, Kathy Bates and Sam Rockwell attended the film’s Atlanta premiere in December 2019 at the Rialto Center for the Arts.

Bobi Jewell, the security guard’s mother, joined the entertainers on stage.

“I would like to thank everyone for coming out tonight on Clint’s behalf,” she said that night. “I’m a Jewell but he is also.”

Bates earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role as Bobi Jewell.

“This film is the story of an unsung American hero,” Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said the night of the Atlanta premiere. “Richard Jewell should be a name we celebrate here in Atlanta and in Georgia.”

Ralston noted at the time that a Centennial Olympic Park ceremony to honor Jewell was coming up; it was postponed like many gatherings due to the pandemic.

“The Suspect,” authored by Kent Alexander, who was the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia during the time of the bombing, and journalist Kevin Salwen, was published about a month before the movie premiered.

“We didn’t write this book as an ethics lesson or as a work of moralizing,” Salwen told the AJC in a 2019 interview. “We wrote this book as a work of narrative nonfiction to tell the story of an unsung hero, a man who deserves a statue in the city of Atlanta, and the case that brought him down.”