By Randall Franks
After our show, “In the Heat of the Night,” went off the air, I was looking for an opportunity to move on to another program. There were not many opportunities for Southern actors at that time.
“Walker, Texas Ranger” was on the air, comedian Brett Butler had a Southern base sit-com called “Grace Under Fire.” My friend and co-star Alan Autry eventually found opportunities with both. I was hopeful that I might find an opening with another talented Southerner, Jeff Foxworthy, who was seeing his sit-com revamped.
As timing would have it, Jeff and I were both appearing for CMA and the Grand Ole Opry at Country Music Fan Fair in 1996. I had the opportunity to talk with Jeff about his new series. He suggested I contact his casting director in Los Angeles and audition. He was even kind enough to write down her contact info for me.
While in Los Angeles, I was doing some Appalachian and American music tutoring for the youth on “Grace Under Fire” and was invited to do the same for the young actors starring on “The Jeff Foxworthy Show.”
Jeff took the time to meet with me while I was there. Though there wasn’t a regular role I could fit in the show, he still made me feel like I was at home. Jeff shared with me his hope that someday he could film a show in Georgia like we did.
Flash-forward 19 years. I am sitting up front a couple of tables over from Jeff Foxworthy and his family at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame Awards in Atlanta, Ga.
I listened to his childhood friend, who made the presentation, describe the Jeff he knew, a man concerned more with helping others and being there for his family than someone chasing a bigger star. That was the Jeff that I came to know in those two visits nearly 20 years ago.
As he walked to the microphone to accept the induction, I saw beyond the lovable Southern comedian and star we all have come to know, to see a kind, considerate man who volunteers at the Atlanta Mission, a fellow Georgian who took the time to be interested in my life years before.
He has become the largest-selling comedy-recording artist in history. He hosted, produced and written numerous TV shows including “Blue Collar TV,” and the “Blue Collar Comedy Tour” films. He also voices characters for film such as “The Fox and Hound 2,” “Racing Stripes” and “The Smurfs.”
While these are great accomplishments, his greatest one were sitting around him at the awards, his beautiful family that he chose to make the center of his world.