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Executed man's last request honored -- pizza for homeless

Story Highlights

• Hundreds of pizzas were delivered to Nashville homeless shelters Wednesday
• Death row prisoner asked that his last meal be pizza for a homeless person
• Prison refused to honor his request, saying it doesn't donate to charity
• One woman and her friends paid $1,200 to fulfill Philip Workman's last wish
By Ashley Fantz
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(CNN) -- Hundreds of homeless people in Nashville, Tennessee, ate well Wednesday evening -- all in the name of a man who the state put to death just hours earlier.

Philip Workman, 53, requested that his final meal be a vegetarian pizza donated to any homeless person located near Riverbend Maximum Security Institution.

He was executed there at 2 a.m. ET Wednesday. (Watch witnesses describe his last moments Video)

But prison officials refused to honor his request, saying that they do not donate to charities.

That apparently upset a few people willing to pay for and deliver a lot of pies themselves.

Homeless shelters across Nashville were inundated with donated pizzas all Wednesday. (Watch homeless feast on piles of pizza Video)

"I was like, 'Wow, Jesus!' " said Marvin Champion, an employee of Nashville's Rescue Mission, which provides overnight shelter, food and assistance to more than 800 homeless people a night.

"I used to be homeless, so I know how rough it gets. I seen some bad times -- not having enough food, the cupboards are bare. But we got pizza to feed enough people for awhile," Champion said.

"This really shows the people here that someone out there thought of them."

$1,200 worth of pies

Donna Spangler heard about Workman's request and immediately called her friends. They all pitched in for the $1,200 bill to buy 150 pizzas, which they sent to the Rescue Mission.

"Philip Workman was trying to do a good deed and no one would help him," said the 55-year-old who recruited a co-worker to help her make the massive delivery Wednesday evening.

"I knew my husband would have a heart attack -- I put some of it on the credit card. But I thought we'll find a way to pay for them later," she said. "I just felt like I had to do something positive."

Spangler wasn't the only person to place an order in Workman's name.

The president of the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals read a news story about the prison denying the inmate's last request and ordered 15 veggie pizzas sent to the Rescue Mission Wednesday morning.

"Workman's act was selfless, and kindness to all living beings is a virtue," said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk.

Not far away, 17 pizzas arrived at Nashville's Oasis Center, a shelter that helps about 260 teenagers in crisis. By 9 p.m. ET, more pizzas had arrived, said executive director Hal Cato.

"We talked to the kids and they understand what this is tied to and they know that this man [Workman] wanted to do something to point out the problems of homelessness."

When Workman robbed a Wendy's in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1981, he was a strung-out cocaine addict looking for a way to pay for his next high, he has said.

He was homeless at the time. Workman was convicted of shooting and killing Memphis Police Lt. Ronald Oliver during the robbery.

Many of the pizzas ordered in Workman's name were delivered anonymously, but the first 17 at Oasis Center came from a Minneapolis, Minnesota, radio station that devoted much of its morning show time talking about Workman's request.

"They were upset about it," said Cato.

He plans to call other homeless shelters in Nashville Thursday and share the pies. "They should be able to benefit from this, too," he said.

Cliff Tredway, the director of public relations for the Rescue Mission, said it's more than pizzas that helped that shelter.

"It's the story of a guy whose execution translated into a generous act," he said. "It's people donating to other people they don't know.

"It's about a group of people who society often writes off getting a pizza party today."

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Tennessee inmate Philip Workman, executed Wednesday, requested that his final meal be a pizza sent to a homeless person.


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