Originally created 10/14/00

Foxworthy shares 'gift God gave me'



When it comes to country, what does Atlanta have over Nashville?

- Jeff Foxworthy, the man who made "redneck" a laughing matter.

He will be the featured speaker at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Greater CSRA Fellowship of Christian Athletes Home Team banquet at Savannah Rapids Pavilion, 3300 Evans to Locks Road in Evans.

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz, last year's speaker, encouraged him to come, he said.

Mr. Foxworthy, the top-selling comedy recording artist of all time, was in an FCA huddle all the way through high school in Hapeville, Ga., and wanted to help the Augusta-area association. Huddles "have a difficult time getting money and having times and places to meet, (but) I feel like I have been real blessed in life," he said in a recent telephone interview from his suburban Atlanta home.

He gave up a $30,000-a-year job with IBM about 14 years ago to pursue a comedy career which exploded with sales of more than 11 million recordings, 10 books, a line of clothing, a TV sitcom and a barbecue restaurant.

Mr. Foxworthy has a syndicated weekly radio show, The Foxworthy Countdown with Jeff Foxworthy, broadcast in about 150 markets. He also does about 100 concerts a year, although his neighbors don't think he works.

His low-key existence in suburbia, including driving his two daughters to school every day in Alpharetta, catches people unaware. He had to pull out his wallet once to convince an Atlanta grocer he had good reason to look and sound like Jeff Foxworthy, he said.

In his spare time he jots down "You're a redneck if..." - ideas for his redneck calendars. After 13 years, he thinks there "cannot be 365 more of these," but over a year's time he fills a yellow note pad by his side with some 400 one-liners, he said. "It may be a bottomless pit."

And the best aren't the crazy ones but the true - a fact audiences confirm over and over again.

"You're a redneck if ... you empty the bed of your pickup truck by driving backward really, really fast - and slamming on the brakes," he told an audience last week.

What surprised him was how many of his listeners pointed to each other.

He grew up Baptist but walked away from church during his college years. When his first daughter was born about nine years ago, it rekindled his desire for a church home, said Mr. Foxworthy. "The more I got back, the more I found how much I'd missed it. I realized that I don't want to stop."

At one time or another he moved through the Methodist and Presbyterian camps and finally settled on being nondenominational, but the label doesn't matter, he said. "God gave me this gift for a reason."

Mr. Foxworthy enjoys speaking on behalf of groups such as the FCA. The comedian also appears at a dozen wild game dinners a year to share his testimony. The host organization often as not raffles off a shotgun, but that has to be saved for last or people will leave, he said.

Children with cancer also have a special place in his heart. He has used his talents on behalf of Camp Sunshine in Atlanta and Duke Children's Hospital in Durham, N.C., where he also volunteers, he said. "I can sit on the bed with them and talk. It doesn't matter what is wrong with them."

There is a chapter of the Kansas City, Mo.-based FCA at one in every four schools in the United States. The organization serves some 500,000 students. The Augusta area has 35 to 40 huddles on as many campuses, from middle school to college-level.

For more information, call 868-6000, or visit the FCA Web site at www.gospelcom.net/fca/index.php. For more information on Mr. Foxworthy, visit the Web site cbsnews.cbs.com/network/htdocs/earlyshow/0425foxworthy.shtml.

Special speaker

Who: Jeff Foxworthy, featured speaker for the Greater CSRA FCA Home Team banquet

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Savannah Rapids Pavilion, 3300 Evans to Locks Road, Evans

Phone: 868-6000

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or vanorton@augustachronicle.com.