‘Too Big to Jail’ is a compelling story of a man named “Joe” and “low level” government employees
The late, great Lewis Grizzard attended the University of Georgia with a man named “Joe,” where they developed a lifelong friendship. Joe grew up poor in rural Southwest Georgia. He was only a boy when he found the body of his dead father who had taken his own life with the family shotgun. Joe became the man of the house to his mother and two sisters. Despite a learning disability and poverty, Joe made his way to the University of Georgia. Afterwards, as Grizzard wrote, “[Joe] finished school and went to Vietnam. He was even shot at a couple of times, but they missed.”
When Joe arrived stateside from the war he was literally spat on by a protester at the airport. But, Joe loved his country, and he loved his hometown. He returned to UGA to study pharmacy and then, without a second thought, moved back to rural Southwest Georgia to be a part of the town that was so much a part of him.
Grizzard summed up his friend this way:
“He lives the solid rural life and helps the sick folks and tries to make his community a better place to live, and in between all that, he raises hogs and children and breaks his butt on something that helps people who have a difficult time helping themselves.”
Unfortunately for Joe, he became successful. He ran his pharmacy and took care of sick people. He bought a farm. He started other businesses. He continued to raise money for charity. He helped start the local Boys and Girls Club. He gave people second chances. He gave jobs to the jobless. He helped his employees get better educations. He even got a young lady without family support into pharmacy school. He wanted to make sure that other people from his town could rise above their circumstances like Joe was able to do. He was the first person the Chamber of Commerce ever named “Citizen of the Year” more than once. After September 11, 2001, after the Army told him he could not reenlist because of his age, Joe decided that he would wear an American flag pin on his shirt every day. And he did. Still, Joe was successful.
He financial success was enough to catch the eye of a “low-level employee” in the state prosecutor’s office that monitored Medicaid payments. Joe’s pharmacy was located in one of the poorest congressional districts in the country and, as such, a large number of the prescriptions he filled were for Medicaid patients. In 2005, that state prosecutor showed up at Joe’s pharmacy with multiple armed law enforcement officers, in vans, cars, and black SUV’s and a subpoena to obtain every prescription Joe had ever filled. Joe complied with the subpoena but, to do so, he was forced to shut down his business for nearly a month so his employees could make copies.
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