Hillari Dowdle shares some memories of Martha Hume, former editor at Whittle Communications in the '80s and '90s and a mentor to many local editors/writers, who passed away in Nashville yesterday:
'Twas around 1988 when Martha Hume blew into town on a puff of Marlboro Light smoke. I had never seen anything like her: She came straight from the world of New York City publishing, and was connected with a galaxy of rock and roll and country music stars, whose names rolled off her tongue in a no-big-deal honeyed Kentucky twang. She was a kooky dresser, mind-bogglingly creative, insanely intelligent, sophisticated (to my new-college-graduate eyes, anyway), frequently buzzed, and a whole lot of fun. Needless to say, I fell deeply, truly, madly in love with her at first sight. Who knows why? She loved me, too.
For reasons of her own, she quit her post at the New York Daily News, and took a job here in Knoxville at Whittle Communications as a Senior Editor of Special Report: Personalities (I won't bore you with the details of what that was), determined to put the big city behind her. She moved from her 2nd Avenue apartment (near the UN building) to Vestal-adjacent South Knoxville, in a kind of crazy Green Acres play, dragging down her famous husband, Chet Flippo, a writer at Rolling Stone magazine and author of It's Only Rock 'n Roll: My On-the-Road Adventures With the Rolling Stones; Your Cheatin' Heart: Biography of Hank Williams; and Graceland: The Living Legacy of Elvis Presley (among other books). It was the perfect place for her, in a way.
Martha's quick, agile mind was perfect for what Whittle threw at her, which was mainly something new every day. She thrived, collecting about her a group of young editors and art directors whom she nourished and encouraged and mentored. I am happy to count myself among that lucky group. Moreover, she met a wide circle of Knoxvillians, and seemed to make a connection with every one of them in one way or another. I remember that our own psychic savant Bobby Drinnon had told Martha that her aura was a very special one, spiky and crystalline--pointing out in every direction, touching everyone. That was private info, I suppose, when she was among the living. But she died peacefully in her sleep in the wee hours last Tuesday, December 18, so I share it openly now as there is no better description of our wild, wonderful girl.
Because I loved her, I am shocked and sad and numb. But also glad for her that she went on her terms and oddly at peace because I know she's still with me--and with every one of us who ever knew her. Hell, she was only ever loosely tethered to this earth plane in the first place, is my reckoning. She'll make one deeply weird, but damn fine angel.
It's what she was meant to be all along.