Eulogy – Richard A. Jewell
by Dr. Michael L. Ford
Richard Jewell died 29 August 2007. He got less notice than he deserved from people who had no trouble finding time to vilify him eleven years earlier. Jewell was just 44 years old and one of the people who make their living expressing their opinions in the media said of him he was one of those people we should never have known about. I suppose that was one last jab at a man who got less appreciation than he deserved in life. But Richard Jewell was one of those people we should hear about and applaud, unlike some of those who make a living of expressing worthless opinions.
Let me tell you why a guy like Richard Jewell should be noticed and applauded quite apart from the fact he was a real life hero. Here was a man who wanted something that had been denied him, and he wanted it badly. A lot of people live their lives like that in quiet desperation and because they have been denied either by the system or by individuals they must get approved by, they settle for less. Richard had wanted to be a lawman and he had not accepted no for an answer. He had not given up because he had been turned down a few times. He had been equipping himself for the job when he could not get a law enforcement agency to do so. And, he had been gaining experience as a security guard, the kind people often called disparagingly “rent a cops” while he looked for a break. Richard Jewell should be commended as a man who did not give up on his dream.
It was Richard Jewell’s self-preparation and desire to be a lawman that allowed him to spot a knapsack with a crudely made pipe bomb in it on July 27, 1996. He was at the Atlanta Olympic Park working as a security guard when he saw the suspicious knapsack near a concert stage. His decisive and heroic handling of the situation kept the casualties down to one dead and 111 injured that night. One might suppose the FBI could not believe the nondescript little security guard could be a legitimate hero, therefore they must have assumed that since he did not look like John Wayne or Gary Cooper he must have planted the bomb himself.
The press made themselves the allies of the Reno Justice System, which was already running wild. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, very much Mr. Jewell's nearest major paper began questioning his hero status within three days after the bombing calling him "the focus" of the FBI investigation into the bombing. How did they get this information? Maybe they were the willing stooges of the FBI, who decided to try him first in the media. NBC’s Tom Brokaw said, "The speculation is that the FBI is close to 'making the case,'…. They probably have enough on him to arrest him right now . . . but you always want to have enough to convict him as well." Who fed him that information? And who recruited the psychologist who said Jewell resembled a "lone bomber?" I think that they were all being controlled by the FBI who neither arrested nor formally charged Mr. Jewell, but placed scrutiny that was both “invasive and crude,” neither arresting or formally charging Richard, but interrogating him in a manner designed to try to get him to implicate himself while pretending they were soliciting his help.
The slur campaigns did not stop. The New York Post called him a "fat, failed former sheriff's deputy." And Jay Leno exposed him to national ridicule calling him the “Una-doofus.” Others jumped on board and called him “Una-Bubba” and disparaged his mother calling her “Una-momma.” They used Richard to once again put down Southerners and it was plain the contempt they had both for him and his origins.
Janet Reno would later say Richard Jewell deserved an apology. I do not know that she ever actually apologized, but then I do not know that anyone from the Federal government ever apologized. Five years after the fact Richard told Mike Wallace “Nobody's ever called me, written me a letter, sent me an Email, called any of my attorneys,” I don’t know if they ever returned his guns, his mother’s Tupperware, or his collection of Walt Disney movies, obviously serious evidence of a tendency toward bomb making. But one thing I do know. Janet Reno never apologized for killing some 80 innocent civilians at Waco Texas, sending an innocent man Grant Snowdon to jail for child molesting, or falsely accusing the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez of violating the law. Neither do we know that this crowd, which treated the rights with of American citizens with such contempt ever apologized to the Alabama preacher whose store they raided and yard and septic tank they dug up because they decided he had something to do with bombings. You see, some people like Richard Jewell and others they do not see as important enough to treat with respect.
The FBI will not even treat Richard Jewell with respect in death. They cannot leave it to a local Southern coroner to do his work. No, they had to autopsy his body themselves. Were they looking for some evidence with which they could further seek to disparage his name or were they so paranoid they needed reassurance he was truly dead? The media, which was so quick to gang up on him eleven years ago, barely mentioned his passing. I guess there was no put downs in commenting on his death, or perhaps someone might remember their previous bad behavior.
I am sorry I did not get to meet Richard while he lived and tell him I admired him. I admire him for the way he had pressed toward a goal; I admire him for the way he conducted himself as a genuine hero when the ATF man ran abandoning civilians to their fate; I admire him for the way he bore up under terrible pressure in those dark days when the FBI wanted to make him a fall guy; and, I admire him for the way he tried to get on with his life afterwards. Oh, and by the way, his death is an excellent opportunity for me to tell those who talked badly about him that I do not admire them. I hold them in contempt. This August a man died who had more character and more guts than the lot of them. A genuine hero has died and his passing is worthy of our notice.
I hope Richard Jewell knew the Lord Jesus Christ in the free pardon of sin, for this man who had to endure so much from an ungrateful government deserves some peace in death.
P. O. Box 752
Buchanan, Georgia 30113