Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Woody Eargle, Free at Last

By Steven Womack

DECEMBER 29, 1997:  Woody Eargle wrote a cover story for the Sept. 25 issue of the Nashville Scene called "It's Not Easy Being Free." Woody had served 15 years of a life sentence for armed robbery and had finally been granted parole. He was 50 years old and had spent better than two-thirds of his adult life in prison.

In his article, Woody wrote of the difficulties long-term prisoners have after being released into society. Woody, who had been the editor of several prison newspapers, compared the experience to landing on Mars. "For a man who's spent a lot of time behind bars," he wrote, "adjusting to life on another planet couldn't be any harder than adjusting to life on the streets."

Woody gave it his best shot, though. He got a job working in a factory, putting in between 60 and 100 hours a week. He had long since given up illegal substances, and his drinking was limited to the occasional beer. A friend from his biker days took him in. At first, Woody lived in a van on the property. Later, he told me, he was converting part of his friend's barn into an apartment.

Woody had a wonderful sense of humor and a great laugh. He was a charming man--gregarious, outgoing, bright, and imaginative. He was the kind of man who even got along with his ex-wife. At the end of the piece, I wrote: "Good luck, Woody. I hope you make it."

photo by Eric England

Sadly, he didn't. Woody Eargle was killed last Saturday in a car wreck. He was driving home from a friend's house around 4 a.m., when he fell asleep and drove into a bridge. There was no indication that alcohol or drugs played any part in the accident.

As his ex-wife told me, at least he died free. That's something, I guess.

So long, pal. I'll miss you.


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