By Joe Rector
Local writers have been on my mind. That’s because the Knoxville community recently lost one of its best, David Hunter. He’s just one of the writers who has either passed or whose parts in daily news have diminished over the years.
David Hunter and I met at a Knoxville Writers’ Guild get together some years ago. He was a long-standing columnist, and I was barely getting my feet wet back then. Our friendship strengthened as we talked and learned that a special bond united us. David spent part of his youth in Lonsdale. My dad worked at Southern Extract, a pollution-puking plant that produced paper and cardboard in the community. Additionally, my grandparents lived in Lonsdale.
David used his years on the police force to help write fiction crimes books. He also wrote a column for the Knoxville News Sentinel for 23 years. The books were true “page turners” that captivated his reading audiences. My favorite pieces were his columns, which covered a variety of topics. Some were on religion, some were on man’s duty to others, and some were moments of reliving life as a boy.
The newspaper is a fickle business, and for some reason, the Sentinel chose to drop David’s column. Suddenly, something as important as the comics or crossword puzzle was missing. I talked to him about it, but he chose to share little about the subject. Instead, he posted some of his writings on other sites. Still, the Knoxville community was bewildered at the disappearance of David’s work.
A few years before David left the paper, Don Williams lost his weekly column. Don’s always been an individual who speaks his minds and stands by his principles. In this case, that dedication to the truth, or refusal to adhere to the paper’s direction, sent Don packing. He’s written several books, gee-hawed New Millennium Writings, and loved and supported his family and his mom.
I met Don when I took a class he offered for fledgling writers several years ago. Most of my stuff was like this column, but I also stretched to write short stories, books, and one poem. Don always offered quality analyses with touches of kindness so as not to crush fragile writers’ egos. The friends I met in those classes still are a part of my life, even if I don’t see them as often. Folks like Lucy, Maryanne, Bob worked with Don to improve their skills and are thankful to him for sharing his knowledge.
Ina Hughs was kind to me. She didn’t know me well but kindly reviewed my book Baseball Boys. Just a blurb in her column was a win to me. Ina had the best sense of humor, one akin to my mother’s. She was a no-nonsense, tell-it-as-it-is person who feared no one. From the 1970’s until she was let go in 2018, Ina gave those of her generation a sense of connection. I miss her sorely.
I might be wrong, but another local writer, Sam Venable, might be the next to go. At one time, Sam was splashed across the sports section and prominently placed in the editorial section. However, these days, it seems that Sam’s writings are stuffed in the strangest of places. Perhaps those who own the paper fail to appreciate good Tennessee boy humor; perhaps they don’t have a sense of humor at all. What is abundantly clear is that they don’t understand the need of readers to consume local news, local folklore, and local features.
I send my deepest sympathies to the family of David Hunter. Thank you for sharing him with us for so many years. I am lucky to be able to write for a paper that is more tolerant. If you have enjoyed local writers, drop them a line while they are here to let them know how much their work means to you. Tell them which piece you liked best or tell them what you learned. They will appreciate it. David, don’t quit the work even in heaven.