The last time I heard from Richard Jewell was almost exactly a year ago. I had written a column about Gov. Sonny Perdueâs decision to give Jewell official recognition for having saved lives when he spotted a bomb placed in Centennial Park during the 1996 Olympic Games by Eric Robert Rudolph. Jewell helped hustle people away from the bomb before it detonated â putting himself in danger while doing so.
The irony was that even though he was a true and real hero, he was robbed of the opportunity to be the hero because two days after the bombing, the AJC fingered him as the No. 1 suspect.
Jewell sent me an e-mail after the story ran, thanked me for it and offered to give me an interview. I was holding that offer in reserve until new news broke and there was a reason to interview him. But that news never came. Instead, there was the news today that he died today at the age of 44, apparently due to complications from diabetes.
I didnât know Jewell well, but I knew him well enough to know that he was a decent man who was thrust into a spotlight he never wanted, despite what the AJC would have you believe.
The last time I saw Richard Jewell was in the tiny police chiefâs office in Luthersville, a little one traffic light town south of Atlanta. Jewell was working as an officer there, and had saved a babyâs life with his quick thinking. And even though he was a hero yet again, by then he was also a man who had been battered by the media in ways you and I will never, ever be able to understand.
His boss, literally, had to order Jewell to talk to me.
On the Drudge Report website, the headline for the story on Jewellâs death was: âThe Man The Media Murdered.â
Thereâs no small degree of hyperbole there. But in its essence, itâs also true. One day the guy is being interviewed by Katie Couric on âThe Today Showâ and the next, heâs being compared in the AJC to Wayne Williams, the convicted serial child killer.
I got the distinct feeling that the incident robbed Jewell of something elemental. No matter where he went, no matter what he did, no matter how long he lived, he told me that he knew forever and always heâd be remembered as the guy who was a suspect in the bombing. And he was right. The New York Times story on his death doesn't identify him as a hero in the first paragraph, it identifies him as the guy who was falsely accused of planting the bomb.
Jewell was only able to be a hero for two days. Then the headlines started and the FBI swooped in to falsely accuse him, and his world was turned upside down.
''For that two days, my mother had a great deal of pride in me â that I had done something good and that she was my mother, and that was taken away from her,'' Jewell said last year. ''She'll never get that back, and there's no way I can give that back to her.''
There was no way we could give him back what he lost, either.
But at least we can remember him for what he was:
Richard Jewell â the hero of 1996 Olympic Games.
The AJC reports Richard Jewell has died. He was 44.
Jewell found the bag containing a bomb planted by Eric Robert Rudolph during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. Jewell sued several media outlets, including the AJC, for news reports describing him as a suspect in the bombing.
Last year, Gov. Sonny Perdue honored Jewell for his heroism.
Those clever guys at ESPN.com came up with some humorous headline ideas concerning Michael Vick's guilty plea.
Our personal favorite: "Vick Completes First Step To Joining '09 Raiders."
"Thank you all very much for coming out today."
-- Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, welcoming reporters to his "I'm not gay" press conference yesterday.
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There seems to be a lot more awareness of it in Chattanooga than in Atlanta, but the two cities are just one county away from merging metropolitan areas. And in Chattanooga, they want to start planning for the eventuality of "Chattlanta."
Which is a horrible name, by the way. For one thing, Atlanta should be in the lead. How about Atlantanooga? Has a nice ring.
According to this story in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, it's all about urban sprawl. Between 1990 and 2006, Atlanta's metropolitan area grew from 18 to 28 counties, adding Bartow County in the northwest corner. Chattanooga's metropolitan area essentially has stayed the same, though the new micropolitan areas of Dalton, Ga., and Rome, Ga., sometimes are included with Chattanooga.
Only one county, Gordon, is not part of a metropolitan area between Atlanta and Chattanooga.
Chick Krautler, executive director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, told the paper that urban sprawl will eventually create an even broader region. "The bigger metropolitan area is really Raleigh to Jacksonville to Birmingham, and maybe as far as Nashville," he said.
We can hardly wait.
There's an old cliche that a Democrat governor will promise (and sometimes deliver) to leave the citizens of a state better off than when he took office. A Republican governor measures success by whether he is better off. Certainly Gov. Sonny Perdue, with his Florida land deal, plays to type.
And it appears poor Georgians are feeling the pain. Census Bureau information released Tuesday shows 13.5 percent of Georgians were poor, compared to 12.4 percent in the 2003-2004 period, and 12.5 percent in the 2000-2001 period, when the state was in a recession (and when a Democrat was governor).
Alan Essig, executive director of the liberal-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, points to even more discouraging news from the Census. About 17.6 percent of Georgians did not have health insurance coverage in the 2004-2006 period, giving Georgia the 10th highest uninsured rate in the country, according to Essig's review of the Census data. Nationwide, the number of uninsured was 47 million (15.3 percent), up 2.2 million since 2005. An additional 600,000 children nationwide were uninsured in 2006 compared to 2005.
"Despite American families' continued struggle to afford health insurance for their children, some of Georgia's representatives in Congress continue to oppose legislation that would extend health insurance to millions of uninsured children across the country," Essig said in a statement. "As they return to Washington, Georgia's leaders should rethink that position," said Essig.
The Census Bureau data shows that 470,000 of Georgia's children were living in poverty in 2006. The 2006 related child poverty rate was 19.7 percent, up from 15.7 percent in 2001. Child poverty was unchanged as compared to last year.
Essig said it is particularly disappointing that five years after the recession, child poverty rates in Georgia are not improving.
In 2006, median household income in our state stood at $46,832. This was not a statistically significant change from the 2005 level, but was still $1,566 below the 2001 level in inflation-adjusted terms. This shows that despite five years of recovery since the 2001 recession, many low- and moderate-income households have not regained ground lost during the downturn.
OK, I'm biased. I'm Sugg.
But Monday, I hinted that the news about Attorney General Alberto Gonzales finally being run out of office might have been timed to coincide with Michael Vick's crash and burn in a Richmond, Va., federal court. I wrote: "Iâll bet ... the cable and network news devote much more time to the dog abuser than they do to the Constitution abuser." My only error was not including the AJC in the list.
In the Tuesday paper, Vick rated about twice as much space on the front page as did Gonzo. Inside, the Constitution abuser got about five-sixths of a page, while the dog abuser got more than 1.5 pages â plus about two-thirds of a page in the Sports section.
Yep, ol' Rove knew how to time this one.
Saturday night at about 2115 hours, 2 subjects began shooting into the residence at 992 Dekalb Ave. The homeowners were home along with 4 guests. They fled out of the rear of the home jumping from the 2nd story to flee these perpetrators. One of the victims was injured when she jumped and fell on her face. Others sprained their ankles when they jumped. No one was shot which was a miracle since the perpetrators fired more than 30 rounds in the home.
-- Maigh at Metroblogging Atlanta, reprinting an e-mail about a home invasion on DeKalb Avenue Saturday night
There is a bloodbath going on on Peachtree Street today. Earthlink (my former employer) is laying off almost 50% of its workforce.
Here is a word of caution for Georgia politicians. When you are outed it is much better to just fess up to it, rather than get caught red handed a year later. Yeah, I'm talking about you ...
-- Decatur Guy at Atlanta Public Affairs has a problem with purportedly straight politicians having illicit (and illegal) gay sex in public toilets.
Then why'd you call your blog "public affairs?"
(photo by Scott Henry)
Do you remember what you were doing Monday night when Atlantaâs fall fashion season had its semi-official kickoff? If not, then you probably werenât at the Jeffrey Fashion Cares benefit, where one giddy attendee made the top auction bid of $23,000 to be on the guest list of Sir Eltonâs next Hollywood post-Oscars bash. Held on an unfinished floor of the new 55 Allen Plaza office building and hosted by diminutive fashion entrepreneur Jeffrey Kalinsky, the event raised more than $700,000 for AIDS and breast cancer research. The requisite runway show aside, we suspect most people came to see what each other were wearing.
Will: The police at Georgia State are overrated. I got locked out of my car. They offer to help you, but they canât even get in my car with what they had. All they were interested in was giving me a ticket and testing me for DUI. I wasnât even drinking. Theyâve really been rude every time I have an encounter with them. Theyâre just interested in ticketing as often as possible. Most underrated are restaurant servers. You get treated like shit and you work your ass off.
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