Monday, August 21, 2006
Bush grants "Deliverance" to former Georgia moonshiner
From The Morning Grind

President Bush did not make history in the Ford-pardons-Nixon sense with his latest batch of presidential pardons announced earlier this week. He did, however, earn the unique distinction of being the first president to grant a pardon to a cast member of the Academy Award-nominated movie "Deliverance."

Randall Leece Deal of Clayton, Georgia, played one of the Griner brothers in the 1972 film about four Atlanta businessmen who have unpleasant encounters with the locals during a North Georgia canoe trip. The roles of the businessmen were played by Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight, Ronny Cox and Ned Beatty.

Deal's only line in the movie: "It ain't nothing but the biggest f..ing river in the state!" For the record, Deal did not play one of the surlier locals involved in an infamous scene with Beatty.

Before his big break in the movies, Deal was in his twenties in the early 1960s when he was charged and convicted on two counts of violating liquor laws, acts commonly known as "moonshining," and one count of conspiring to violate liquor laws.

"That really wasn't true," Deal told CNN of the conspiracy charge. "But anyway, that's what they charged us with."

Moonshining was a common practice in the area in the 1960s, Deal said. He also points out that he was not in it for the money, but was more interested in the fun and camaraderie of the enterprise.

"I was just helping some friends back then," he said. "It was really just more like a game than anything, to be honest with you. It wasn't a big business deal, fiddling with moonshine. At least to me it wasn't."

Deal never served any jail time for the convictions, but the black mark on his record rankled him enough to seek a presidential pardon over 40 years later.

"I just got to thinking about it, you know. Just to get her wiped out if possible," he said.

Deal hired a local attorney and "just filled out the papers and sent it in to the White House, or wherever you send them to, a good long time ago."

The Justice Department announced his pardon on Wednesday, and Deal first heard the news when reporters started contacting him that afternoon at his home in Clayton.

"I really didn't have an idea what kind of a deal it would be," he said. "But evidently it's a pretty big old deal to get one."

Deal defies the image of the well-connected, deep-pocketed presidential pardon recipient like controversial financier Marc Rich, who received one of President Clinton's final pardons in 2001. According to Federal Election Commission records, Deal has never made a federal political contribution. When asked if he had any special political connections with the White House, he laughed and said, "Oh no. No sir. None whatsoever."

But he did describe himself as a supporter of President Bush, pardon or no pardon. Although the pardon doesn't hurt.

"Well, you know, somebody does something for you, it should help your opinion of them, shouldn't it?" he asked. "Isn't that the way it's supposed to be?"

These days, Deal, now 66, works at the local sheriff's office, and just celebrated his 16th anniversary there on Wednesday, the same day his pardon was announced. He said his movie career is long behind him. His only post-"Deliverance" acting role was in the little-known 1982 film "Trapped," which he calls "just a little old bitty thing. Nothing to mention." He does still receive the occasional residual check for his brief acting career, each check usually no more than a few dollars.

Also long behind him are his moonshining days.

"There isn't really much of that around here anymore," he said. "In fact, I was thinking here a minute ago, and I believe practically everybody I helped (make moonshine) is dead."
Posted By Robert Yoon, CNN Washington Bureau: 8/21/2006 09:59:00 AM ET | Permalink
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