Baby Boomer Celebrity: Who is Richard Jewell and What Happened to Him?

Posted on June 3rd, 2014 in 1990s,Celebrities,Crime,Pop Culture by Terry Hamburg



My 15 minutes of fame was a nightmare. And it could happen to you.

You might be wondering: the name rings a distant bell, but who is he?

This baby boomer would have remained invisible except for a fateful day in 1996. As a private security guard working at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, I discovered a pipe bomb, alerted the police and helped evacuate the area. One person was killed and 111 injured, but many more were saved because of my action. I was hailed as a hero. That didn’t last long.

The FBI decided that I was the prime suspect, based on some “lone bomber” profile of an unstable, failed law enforcement officer who planted the device so he could find it and become an instant hero. Thus began my “trial by media.”

After exoneration, Richard Jewell as Grand Marshall of an Independence Day Parade with the theme “Unsung Heroes.

 

I turned into a baby boomer crime celebrity, scorned and ridiculed from coast to coast. Two bombing victim survivors sued for damages. For a while, I was the national pop culture joke. Jay Leno labeled me the “Una-Doofus,” comparing me to the sophisticated and elusive Unabomber. Others called me “Una-Bubba,” playing on my Southern roots and portly figure.

Although never formally charged, the FBI followed me everywhere, hounded my associates and family, and combed through my background. The media covered it in lurid detail.

When I passed a lie detector test, the focus gradually eased. After a year, the FBI announced I was no longer a suspect. Eventually, one Eric Robert Rudolph, a right-wing terrorist, would be convicted of the crime.

Richard Jewell and Eric Robert Randolph

 

I filed a series of lawsuits against the media, including NBC, CNN, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, and The New York Post. Almost all the money I won went to lawyers. My motive was to clear my name.

I managed to get jobs as a police officer and sheriff’s deputy. Colleges invited me to speak.

Goodbye, cruel world. Gone to a better place at age 44 from a series of health problems linked to my obesity. I’m a big man in more ways than one. I won’t blame the authorities for contributing to my deteriorating health and early demise. After all, we were just doing our jobs. The only difference is that I did mine a lot better.

Trivia Factoid

Jewell appeared in a 1997 episode of Saturday Night Live where he punched Will Ferrell in character as Attorney General Janet Reno, and was then “interviewed” as himself by ever-impish Norm Macdonald.

Watch the video→ A JEWELL OF AN INTERVIEW


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