Jeffrey Tucker

I had previously heard nothing about the tragic and remarkable case of Andrew Wordes of Roswell, Ga., who set his house on fire and blew it and himself up as police arrived to evict him from his foreclosed-upon home. It was Agora’s 5 Min. Forecast that alerted me to the case, and this report remains one of not too many mentions in Google’s news feed.

So I got curious about this case, read some of the background, heard an interview with Andrew and read all the tributes at his memorial service and now I realize he was like all of us living under the despotism of our time. He resisted and resisted as long as he could. But rather than finally complying, he decided that a life that is not his own is not worth living.

It is a dramatic and deeply sad story that should raise alarms about the least-talked-about cost of a state-run society: the demoralization that sets in when we do not control our own lives. (I’m grateful to Glenn Horowitz for his careful reconstruction of the timeline of events.)

The whole ordeal began only a few years ago, when Wordes began to keep chickens in his backyard. His property was on 1 acre, but it was surrounded by secluded woods. He loved the birds, sold and gave away eggs to people and enjoyed showing kids the animals. He was also very good at this job, and being something of a free spirit, he chose to make something he loved his profession.

The city objected and came after him. In 2008, the zoning department issued a warning about the chickens on his property. This was odd because he was violating no ordinance at all; indeed, the code specifically approved chickens on properties of less than 2 acres. Even the mayor at the time objected to the department’s claim, but the department went ahead anyway. A year later, and with the assistance of former Gov. Roy Barnes, Wordes won in court!

But then look: The city council rewrote the law with no grandfather clause. It forbade more than six chickens on any lot, and specified that all chickens have to be in a permanent enclosure. He had tried to get approval for an enclosure, but because his house was on a flood plain, the city would not issue an approval. In the midst of this controversy, a flood did come to his house, and he had to use a Bobcat to move dirt around to save his house and his chickens.

Sure enough, the city then issued two citations for moving dirt without a permit and having illegal, unrestrained chickens. Then, the city refused to submit to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) his request for reconstruction funds after this storm (individuals on their own cannot get money of this sort). Next, the city contacted his mortgage holder, who was a friend and who had carried his mortgage for 16 years, and pressured her to sell the mortgage to stay out of legal trouble.

Do you get the sense from this that Mr. Wordes was being targeted? Absolutely. And he knew it, too. The Roswell Police Department pulled him over constantly and issued as many tickets as possible for whatever reason, tangling him in more difficulties. Police cars would wait in front of his house and follow him. And when he didn’t cough up enough money (he was nearly bankrupt after all this), they would book him and throw him in jail. This happened on several occasions. Meanwhile, the city itself filed several more suits against him.

It gets worse. The city planners came up with a “Roswell 2030 Plan” that posited a parks area exactly where his home was. Hearing of this, Wordes offered to sell his home to the city, but the city refused. They clearly planned to drive him out of it with this legal barrage. It didn’t matter that Wordes won every legal challenge or managed to get the suits thrown out in court — that only made the city angrier. Eventually, the city managed to a get probated sentence, setting up a tripwire that would eventually destroy his livelihood.

He posted on his Facebook account that he was going to be a attending a political event. While he was gone, his chickens were poisoned. Also poisoned were the baby turkeys, 10 of which were actually owned by the mayor, who was a friend. At this point, he had lost his means of support. While panicked about what to do, he missed a probation check-in. He was ordered to serve the remainder of his probated sentence in jail for 99 days.

While in jail, his home was ransacked and looted. Of course, the police did nothing. In fact, they probably approved it. Also while in jail, the new mortgage holder foreclosed on his home. His entire life was now in shambles.

The final episode came on March 26 this year. The police had come for the final eviction. Wordes locked himself in the house for several hours. He then came out and told all authorities to step far away from the house. He lit a match, and the gasoline he had doused all over the house created a gigantic explosion. Wordes’ own body was charred beyond recognition.

Maybe you think that Wordes was some sort of freak who couldn’t somehow adjust to normal life with neighbors. Well, it turns out that he was just about the greatest neighbor one could ever have. At his final service, person after person testified how he would come to anyone’s aid at a moment’s notice, how he fixed things and gave away eggs and was incredibly generous to everyone around him. I listened to an interview with him and found him extremely well-spoken and intelligent.

I tell you, if you can listen to this interview without tears welling up, you have no heart. This man was the heart and soul of what made this a great country. The law hounded and hounded him, mainly because some bureaucrats had made a plan that excluded his home. They carried out that plan. He became an enemy of the state. Demoralized and beaten down, he finally had no way out. He ended his life.

Note, too, that he had the support of the high-ranking members of the political class, including the current mayor and a former governor. Bear in mind what this signifies: The political class is not really running things. As I’ve written many times, the political class is only the veneer of the state; it is not the state itself. The state is the permanent bureaucratic structures, those untouched by elections. These institutions make up the real ruling apparatus of government.

It is hard to say that Wordes made the right decision. But it was a courageous one — at least I think it was. It is a difficult moral choice, isn’t it? When the police come to take all you have and are determined to cut out your heart and soul and reduce your life to nothing but a sack of bones and muscle, without the right to choose to do what you love — and you really see no way out — do you really have a life? Wordes decided no.

The rest of us need to think hard about this case, and perhaps you can also spare a few thoughts in memory of his good life, and even a prayer for his immortal soul. May we all long to live in a society in which such people can thrive and enjoy “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Regards,

Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker
  • Phil W

    Who provided the analysis stating gasoline was the cause? I don’t think so.

  • MetaCynic

    If he had to end his life because of intolerable abuses inflicted on him by a cruel and insufferable bureaucracy, could anyone blame him if he had done so going Rambo?

  • http://www.taoeconomics.com Taoeconomics

    He’s a hero to me. And people want more government????

    “Government is a disease masquerading as its own cure” – Robert LeFevre

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  • DoesNotMatter

    I don’t understand moral victories. what did this man accomplish by killing himself? Nothing! Absolutely nothing.

  • DoesNotMatter

    Did the state become weaker by his self immolation? No! Do his oppressors roam free? Yes! So what did this man accomplish. Guys, Remember, killing yourself is what your enemy wants. It’s silly.

  • F.A. Hayek Fan

    Thank you for writing this article. However, I must make a critique of your consistent use of the the phrase “the city.” “The city” did this and “the city” did that. I strongly disagree with this characterization. “The city” cannot DO anything. Individuals did this to this man. Who were these individuals? What are the local citizens of this community and Mr. Wordes neighbors doing about the individuals who abused their power to this extent.

    A very sad story indeed. Only Mr. Wordes community can exact justice for Mr. Wordes. If American citizens won’t even stand up for themselves and their neighbors and hold bureaucrats accountable at the local level we as a nation are lost.

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  • Jay

    Too bad he didn’t take some of those “permanent bureaucratic structures” with him. The revolution is getting closer.

  • Eddy Slovak

    A couple geese took down an Airbus. Even a few grains of sand can destroy an engine. Monkey wrenching works if you hit the SOBs where they live and where they profit.

  • DEADTIME

    If he looked like Obamas son maybe the press would cover this and our glorious leader would make a statement.

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  • Dean

    In reference to response #6

    What it did was bring attention to the City Of Roswell, GA in a negative way that I hopes peopl responible for
    what seems like a travesty to me. This story needs more notoriety.

  • 2WheelPenguin

    R.I.P. , Andrew Wordes & Joe Stack, as the police state winds up, they will not be alone.

  • anonymous

    He should have followed Patton’s advice, and made that other SOB die for HIS cause. Then, he really would have been a “hero” … instead of just another poor, worn-down, victim of this criminal enterprise we euphemistically refer to as “government”.

  • Rapscallion

    “Well, the ambulance arrived too late. I guess he didn’t want to wait….Welcome to the boomtown!”
    Unfortunately, our whole country is going to go ‘BOOM’ and this episode will become the norm as long as we allow government to dictate our lives!

  • Tricia

    ABSOLUTELY HORRIBLE! This is a hate crime done by Roswells City Counsil-They all need to be held accountable for their actions-THIS IS MURDER!!! Arrest, try & convict them!!!!! If they do build a park here, people need to go out & turn it into an Andrew Wordes Memorial Park, so that everyone who goes there will know who he was & what the city council did to him-What a shame-Such a corrupt government. Makes me ashamed to call myself a U.S. citizen-Get out & vote this Nov!

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  • http://georgedonnelly.com George Donnelly

    I wonder what the outcome would have been if he and his local friends had tried satyagraha instead. What a terrible shame.

  • Able Freeman

    Carl Drega………….. What consequences ought these destroyers suffer? Absolutely more then they ever do!

  • sean

    “I don’t understand moral victories. what did this man accomplish by killing himself? Nothing! Absolutely nothing.”

    Would you have learned about him or his persecution inflicted by his government if he hadn’t? Think about it.

  • JS

    It is a sad story – a man destroyed by Developers using a corrupt government and “badge gang” they control for “muscle.” much like the case of the Greek pharmacist who recently committed suicide near their parliament; he paid his pension for 35 years only to have the Bankers steal it using the government that cartel controlls.

    I don’t trust governments either, but let us not forget that the mayor could not help him – even court-rulings could not help him. It was wealthy puppeteers of government who were calling the shots. If those individuals did not have a vastly disproportionate amount of money, and others were not dependent on that money to live and give their children a future, they could not have “bought off” everyone. Even without “big evil government” as their tool, those Elites would still buy off thugs and threaten or kill those who did not want the bribes.

    Disproportionate power is the real enemy.

  • VMV

    I have the greatest sympathy for Andrew Wordes, and I believe he was driven to suicide. But suicide is a great mistake and is always wrong. I am sorry that he gave up. I am sure he could have gotten legal help and gotten publicity, even if he went to jail. He should not have given up. I’ll pray for his soul.

  • Robert C. McArtor

    I would hope that any business even considering setting up a branch in Roswell, Georgia, change their minds and abandon these criminals to their own fate. Bob McArtor

  • Mmb

    I can understand why you feel Andrew was a hero but knowing him for 15 years, he was a mentally unstable and presented information that was untrue. If you want to check the records, Andrew was years behind in his city and county taxes, was years behind in his mortgage ( not as he portrayed as falling behind while in jail), used $7000 in FEMA money to buy more chickens, pigs and guns. We tried to help him get back on his feet by offering work but he wouldn’t show up. Andrew drove around with no insurance, expired car tags and expired drivers license, enjoying the recognition he craved when arrested. The last arrest was due to the failure to complete his community service (somehow, he thought volunteering for a gun show would be acceptable, although he failed to do that too). Sadly, the media fueled his mission to get something for nothing because he began to believe the wild stories he told, with no one ever checking the facts. Once, when my husband confronted Andrew about money he owed us and the make-believe excuses he gave, Andrew pushed him, although my husband is on a cane.

    Do feel sorry for the mental state Andrew was tortured with, because he changed from a very talented car mechanic to an individual that craved sensationalism.

    mechanic to a man that created scams. Anyone that really knew Andrew for more than a few years, knew he how unstable he was. Andrew left this earth exactly how he wanted to, again being the center of attention.

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