A memorial for David Hunter

Jake MabePowell

Nobody in this town ever wrote about cops any better than David Hunter.


Scribes are taught early to write what you know. So David did.

His bad heart forced him to retire as a detective from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office about 30 years ago. So, he crafted tales about cleaning up the bars and strip joints that were once bad news along Clinton Highway. His first book, “The Moon is Always Full,” full of such stories, was his best.

David died Feb. 21, 2021. He was 73. He didn’t want a funeral, but he never said not to write about him.

David was a radical by Knox County standards. He was a proud and loud liberal in a hotbed of political conservatism. He despised Donald Trump, and said so, often. He didn’t like beer or UT football or gospel quartets.

But he did like dogs, Vardis Fisher, Warren Zevon, and a good cup of coffee.

David and first wife, Elaine, lived for a time next to my paternal grandparents on Majors Road in Halls. So, when I began reading his books and writing him notes, he knew the last name.

When I began working for the dear old Halls Shopper in 1998, David decided I needed a mentor. He said to avoid adverbs, write short sentences, and not be so conservative. It’s good advice.

David Hunter’s books

He was a steady worker, writing 18 books, including a novel published by Bantam in New York. It was, he said, a lousy experience. Let’s just say he didn’t get rich. In his spare time, he wrote columns for several local papers.

He was friends with such literary lights as Sharyn McCrumb and Larry Brown, and never ran out of ditties about the late Jim Dykes. If you’ve been around here awhile, you may remember Dykes’ column in the defunct daily Knoxville Journal.

I called David on a rainy afternoon last July. We talked for three hours. He gave me good advice during what became our last conversation too, sharing how Dykes dealt with trigeminal neuralgia, a debilitating neurological disorder I’ve had for eight years.

I hope he’s holding court somewhere up in heaven with all of his beloved dogs by his side. Knowing David, he’s busy working on another book. Why should death stop him? Nothing else ever did.

When you’ve got a minute, read David’s Nov. 23, 2020, Facebook post about Covid, the holidays and his family: Common Sense by David Hunter

Jake Mabe is columnist emeritus for Knox TN Today. He worked for publisher/editor Sandra Clark from 1998 until health sidelined him in 2014. 

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