A number of years ago there was an Atlanta radio station called WRNG. I doubt it’s still in existence, but for several years they had a four-hour program on Sunday morning called “Open Line,” as I recall.
The president of a college I attended would frequently come through Atlanta on his way home from teaching executive sessions in South Carolina. He would regularly appear as a guest on the four-hour program. Living in Atlanta, he would sometimes ask me to guest co-host with him.
It was a very interesting experience because all kinds of people would call in with all types of questions and comments. The moderator of the show was a wonderful person and very good at his job. But because of the spontaneity of the calls, one had to think fast on their feet.
This was back in the days Lester Maddox was governor. One caller actually called in after listening to us talk and said, “I thought Lester Maddox was a nut but you two take the cake.”
The most memorable caller asked me if I thought I was my brother’s keeper. I responded by saying, “that was a question asked in the bible, and since God did not choose to answer, I think I will pass.” He hung up.
My best friend at the time was Grace Zabriskie, an actress now living in Hollywood, who over the past many years appeared in various movies and guest appearances on many television programs, including “Seinfeld.” But at that time, she lived here working in a local theatre. After the radio program we would meet for lunch and have many laughs over all the call-ins.
I have several vivid memories of Lester Maddox. One was the news about his fighting off agents trying to close his restaurant, having something to do with racial tensions. I don’t recall exactly what it was about. I just recall his fighting them off with ax handles, which headlined the news.
The other thing I recall is a speech he made when he became governor relative to the riots in Piedmont Park. In the speech, he stated that Piedmont Park belonged to the people. I called his office and spoke to a staff member, telling him I was one of those people the governor said Piedmont Park belonged too. I told him I’d like to sell my part, and asked how I would go about doing that. He laughed and hung up on me.
Then I recall Lester Maddox walking off a guest appearance on a TV show in the middle of the interview because the host asked him something he did not like.
The last and most important thing I recall is him signing into law a bill presented by the general assembly, which changed the law on forced immunizations. This law was later changed by federal judges after I filed suit in federal court challenging the law’s unconstitutionality of forced immunizations.
These events occurred back in the late 60s and early 70s. I have fond memories of Lester Maddox. He was one of those very colorful characters in the history of Georgia.
Let Freedom Ring!