Athens man receives presidential pardon, says he still can't buy a gun

7:34 AM, Apr 9, 2013   |    comments
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An East Tennessee man had only about a 2% chance of ever having his criminal record wiped clean, even though he committed what would now be considered a petty crime 50 years ago.

In March that all changed, thanks to the stroke of a presidential pen.

In 1962, a 20-year-old Roy Grimes made a decision that he now admits was a bad one.

"I've never tried to hide it," said Grimes, who is now 72 and lives in Athens with his wife.

The decision to alter and cash a money order at a post office for $40.83 changed his life.

"I turned myself in at the federal office in Chattanooga," he said.

Back then, his petty crime was a federal felony that caused him to get turned down for jobs and stripped him of his civil liberties.

"Everywhere I've been since then and on several occasions I've had to report it," he said. "I've got a little paragraph that I put [on job related documents] that explains what I've done. I told them I was sorry it took place. The lord had forgiven me and I hoped they would."

His employer of 40 years, TVA, forgave him. He's still working as a mechanical engineer there.

His wife did too. They have two kids and four grandkids.

But it took the president's forgiveness to lift the burden off his shoulders.

"I told my wife, 'Hallelujah!,' when he heard his pardon had been signed."

Grimes applied for the pardon in 2010. It took eight months to fill out 40 pages of documents.

"I had to go back to 1961 and tell them every place I'd been and every place I'd worked," he said.

He even had to solicit the help of Congressman Jimmy Duncan who wrote the president a recommendation.

He knew he underwent a background check when he got a call from the FBI.

"An FBI agent called and talked with Frances and myself and he said he got the biggest laugh when it came across his desk to investigate it because of the amount of money that was involved," he said.

But he never heard a word on the status, until March 1st, when the president signed the order.

Now that his name is cleared, his hope is to be able to add a key element to his extensive western collection.

"I have several holsters that I would like to have guns in them that don't have guns in them," said Grimes.

He's worried that it won't happen. So far the state has not allowed him to buy a gun.

"I'm thankful the president signed it, but without the state's okay to buy a gun it's basically a hollow of victory," he said.

Even so, he's counting his blessings.

He'll never know why the president chose him. After all, he has given the fewest pardons of any in modern history.

But Grimes is glad he did.

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