Published Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lewis Grizzard Exhibit: Male Academy display brings his world to life


Lewis Grizzard used to ride the school bus from his hometown of Moreland to Newnan High School.

The exhibit on Grizzard, usually displayed in Moreland, has also taken a ride to Newnan where it is on display at the Male Academy Museum. The world of the writer and humorist lives again in the imaginative exhibit, which will be at the Male Academy at least through the end of February. The museum operated by Newnan-Coweta Historical Society is in a former school building at Temple Avenue and College Street.

Grizzard, who died of a congenital heart ailment in 1994, grew up in Moreland and graduated from Newnan High. A growing exhibit about Grizzard was being put together at the Moreland Hometown Heritage Museum before restoration work began at the Moreland Mill, and that collection is being showcased in the temporary exhibit at the Male Academy.

The Moreland Cultural Arts Alliance coordinates the Grizzard project and other tourism efforts in Moreland. The collection of the former Lewis Grizzard Memorial Museum was transferred to MCAA when the Grizzard museum closed, and additions from Una Coutee, the writer’s aunt, and Dedra Grizzard, his widow, have expanded the collection.

Male Academy staff and volunteers worked with Carol Chancey of MCAA to put the Grizzard exhibit together. Work began late last year. “We got it pretty much completed” a couple of weeks ago, Tom Redwine of the Male Academy said.

“The first thing you see is an article he wrote – on Valentine’s Day, I think it was – in the 1980s called ‘The War Baby,’” Chancey said. She said the “poignant, bittersweet piece” about his parents’ marriage and divorce and about the literal and emotional wars that haunted his father told a lot about Grizzard.

“It’s one of my favorite pieces. It shows him as a journalist and a very gifted author,” Chancey said.

Chancey spoke of “the conflict he felt throughout his life not only from being from a divorced family, but his life as a mid-century man.” She noted Grizzard came of age at a time of great social change.

“He wants to do the right thing, but he doesn’t quite know which side to be on,” Chancey reflected.

The exhibit includes memorabilia from Grizzard’s high school days, awards he won through the years, a typewriter and photographs. Redwine said it was particularly challenging to hang a large painting of Grizzard and his beloved dog, Catfish.

A worn pair of Grizzard’s beloved Gucci loafers are in one display case.

There are several nods to Grizzard’s school days in Newnan, including some authentic high school lockers. Some parts of the exhibit have “blackboards” that offer friends of Grizzard the opportunity to leave a message – written in chalk.

Chancey talked about what she calls Aunt Una’s Memory Box. “That box is the inspiration for this exhibit,” she said.

The box belonged to Coutee. Chancey described Coutee as “Lewis’ doting aunt who had no children of her own.” Chancey explained, “The old box was filled with carefully trimmed articles collected over his career.”

The box of treasures was the first gift to come to MCAA from Coutee through Mary Ann Cauthen, who is Coutee’s niece and Grizzard’s first cousin.

The box contained clippings from Grizzard’s younger years including his early days as a writer. There were photographs and notes, as well as “lots of memorabilia,” Chancey said.

“As we grow our Lewis Grizzard presentation and exhibit in Moreland, we are grateful to Aunt Una for such a cherished gift and to the many friends who’ve worked for 20 years fostering his legacy. We are grateful and honored to be invited by these closest ‘fans’ to share and preserve and foster their precious memories,” Chancey said.

There have already been several visitors to the Male Academy who specifically wanted to see the Grizzard memorabilia. Redwine recalled a woman from New York who brought eight or 10 people with her. “She specifically came to see the exhibit. She just adored the man,” Redwine said.

The Moreland Hometown Heritage Museum is temporarily closed while work is being done on the two-story part of the Moreland Mill. The upper floor is slated to become a media center showcasing the work of Grizzard and novelist Erskine Caldwell, who was born near Moreland in 1903.

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