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From the Editor

Drive hard, but know when to brake

To honor the induction of former Esquire editor David Granger (Grad ’81) into the Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame, we thought we’d try something different. We got him to sit down for an Esquire-style interview, what the magazine styles as an “ESQ&A.”

Richard Gard

Instead of question, answer, follow-up, these interviews take a freer form, designed to convey the sense of two people just talking. Scott Raab, one of the great talents Granger attracted to the Esquire masthead over his 19-year run as chief, perfected the art. Even more perfect, Raab agreed to ESQ&A Granger for us.

In their discussion, Granger tells Raab how he came to UVA for grad school—and how he escaped, swearing off his original plans to become an academic.

At times the conversation morphs into another Esquire trademark, the “What I’ve Learned” series, where an accomplished individual shares assorted, if random, nuggets of wisdom. John Kenneth Galbraith, for example, once offered up: “A good rule of conversation is never answer a foolish question.” It came, we’re told, after the interviewer thought he’d ask one of the world’s foremost economists how much is too much to pay for a pair of socks.

“Edit like you drive.” Granger received that advice from his wife, early in his tenure at Esquire. Granger was sure he was about to get fired. As they headed up New York’s West Side Highway, his wife watched him take his frustration out on the gas pedal. Her words delivered the kick in the driver’s seat he needed. 

Remember to tap the brakes. That’s a what-I’ve-learned from The Suspect, reviewed in this issue and source material for the recent movie Richard Jewell. With new reporting, the book provides the definitive account of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics security guard who shooed countless revelers away from a bomb under a park bench, minutes before it exploded. As thanks, the feds and the media tagged him as the prime suspect and upended his life.

I remember the events from my own Atlanta days. I was the editor and publisher of the Atlanta legal daily at the time. We covered the media circus and the years of defamation litigation that followed, reporting that draws several shout-outs from the book. What I hadn’t realized before were all the UVA connections to the story, starting with the book’s co-author, Kent Alexander (Law ’83), then the Atlanta U.S. Attorney. 

Katie Couric (Col ’79) makes several appearances in the tale, most notably when she tries to persuade Jewell’s criminal defense attorney, Jack Martin (Col ’68), to let her interview his client on the Today show. She goes right for the heart by singing “The Good Old Song” into Martin’s voicemail.

The pivotal moment in Jewell’s ordeal happens when two Wahoos sit down to coffee: Martin and Alexander, defense and prosecution, each the cooler head in his own camp. Earlier they had negotiated a way for Jewell to cooperate with the investigation. The conditions fulfilled, Alexander meets Martin at a Caribou to take the extraordinary step of hand-delivering a letter that clears Martin’s client and an accompanying public statement that expresses actual regret. It was the right thing to do and, through a UVA lens, the honorable thing.

Richard Gard (Col ’81)
Vice President, Communications, UVA Alumni Association