The song opens:
Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a TV show
With some smart-ass New York Jew
The "smart ass New York Jew" is Dick Cavett, who had Lester Maddox on his show in 1970. Maddox was governor of Georgia, elected in 1966 without ever having held elected office. A staunch segregationist, he came to prominence by refusing to serve black patrons at the restaurant he owned, thumbing his nose at the Civil Rights Act. When Maddox appeared on The Dick Cavett Show, he was seated next to another guest, the football star Jim Brown, a champion of African American rights. Newman was watching.
Cavett asked Maddox if he "had any trouble with your white admirers because of all the things you did for blacks." Maddox, sensing that he and his supporters were being attacked as bigots, demanded an apology and walked off the show.
"The audience hooted at him, and he didn't say a word," Newman told Performing Songwriter. "Maddox didn't get a chance to be bad on that show. And I thought, 'Now, I hate everything that he stands for, but they didn't give him a chance to be an idiot.' And here he is, governor of a state - these people elected him in Georgia, however many million people voted for him - and I thought that if I were a Georgian, I would be angry. I would be angry anyway, even if I were a nice, liberal, editor of the journal in Atlanta. And so I wrote that. And there are some mistakes in it, like, that guy wouldn't know the names of all those ghettos, but, so what."