A friend of mine who runs a women's shelter first heard about this when several people called with offers of pizza last week. The story is that Phillip Workman, who was executed on May 9th for killing a Tennessee cop during a Wendy's robbery twenty five years ago, used his last meal request to ask that a vegetarian pizza be delivered to a nearby homeless person.
When Workman committed his robbery, he was a homeless Vietnam vet who was strung out on cocaine. His final unselfish act recalled that history, and sought to perform one final act of compassion.
Prison authorities refused, saying that a.) state money can not be used to contribute to charity, and b.) the cost might surpass the allotted $20 value of the meal.
The story got out and set off an avalanche of pizza to the homeless. A Tennessee woman got her friends together and raised $1,200 to buy 170 pizzas for the Nashville Union Rescue Mission. Another 17 pizzas were spontaneously delivered to a Tennessee youth shelter. Given that pizzas were being offered to relatively obscure homeless shelters as far away as Seattle, I can only assume that Workman's final request resulted in thousands of pizzas being delivered to homeless people across the nation.
The biblical metaphors here are irresistible. Condemned man in last meal shares food with poor. A miracle follows, and vegetarian pizzas multiply like loaves and fishes. Poor people throughout nation break bread in his memory. Workman, in his final moments, becomes Christlike.
Amnesty International has printed a detailed statement on Workman's case, and believes that the death was the result of an accidental shooting by another officer. Workman's was the 1,074th execution in the United States since the death penalty was restored in 1977. You can get a strong sense of what Workman was like in this videotaped interview with CNN.