Writers Hall of Fame: Posthumous inductees led the industry

Susan EspirituOur Town Neighbors

Friends of Literacy established the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame in 2004 to honor local and regional writers who have created an outstanding body of work. This year, nine inductees were recognized at the gala on April 19, who we have featured in the weeks prior to the gala. There were also  several who were inducted posthumously.

Russell Smith (1949-2019) grew up in Lafayette, Tennessee, moving to Knoxville in the 1960s. He founded the band Fatback. One night he was sitting in the original Ruby Tuesday restaurant and wrote the song Third Rate Romance after watching a couple meeting for what he assumed was romantic rendezvous. He was the songwriter for the Amazing Rhythm Aces and had a successful career writing for Randy Travis and other country music artists.

Ruth Hale (1887-1934) was a journalist, women’s rights activist, a founder of the Algonquin Round Table, and cofounder of the Lucy Stone League. She was born in Rogersville, Tennessee and began writing for Hearst Bureau in Washington, D. C. when she was eighteen.

John Hightower (1904-1987) is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and correspondent who covered the atomic bombing of Japan and the development of radar. Hightower was born in Coal Creek, Tennessee, which is now renamed Rocky Top. He attended the University of Tennessee before starting his career at the Knoxville News Sentinel in 1931. He joined the Associated Press in 1933 for which he covered the Navy and State Department during World War II.

Bernadotte Schmitt (1886-1969) is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Coming of War, 1914, a detailed account of the causes of World War I. Schmitt was born in Strasburg, Virginia, but grew up in the Fort Sanders area of Knoxville. He attended the University of Tennessee and became the state’s first Rhodes Scholar in 1904.

William Rule (1839-1928) was founder and editor of The Knoxville Journal (originally the Knoxville Chronicle), which was published from 1870 until 1991, and he was editor until his death in 1928. Rule lived in his entire life in Knox County, except while serving as a Union officer in Civil War. At the time of his death, Time Magazine named him the oldest active editor in the United States.

Nominations are accepted from the public each year beginning December 1, for the categories to include lifetime achievement, fiction, nonfiction, journalism, poetry, social media, playwriting, songwriting, children’s literature and young adult literature.

An independent panel of judges evaluates nominees based on recognition within the writer’s field, longevity, quality, and volume of work. All nominees must have been born in, currently reside in, or have a body of work related to the East Tennessee region.

All of us have a story and I want to tell yours! Send them to susan@knoxtntoday.com.


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