Falling into the category of interesting connections, our recent journey from Florida to New York led me to the memorials for three fascinating writers.
In Atlanta, our first stop was Manuel’s Tavern, a famous watering hole for journalists and politicians. I wanted to see the memorial for my old friend Paul Hemphill. Paul was a Southern writer and a journalist who wrote numerous books about the region and its diverse culture. His most famous books dealt with subjects such as Hank Williams and NASCAR. Others dealt with his personal experiences, such as trying to hike the Appalachian Trail with his son and playing minor league baseball. My particular favorite is his autobiography, Leaving Birmingham, in which he traces his awakening as an intelligent and progressive southerner.
In Charlotte, walking with a friend through Uptown amid all the new construction, we were attracted to an interesting building dating back to the early 20th Century. Beside the front door was a plaque noting that it was once the residence of W.J. Cash, an editor of the long defunct Charlotte News and author of The Mind of the South, one of the most insightful explorations of southern culture ever written, a book that has remained in print for more than 75 years and is a staple of Southern History. Published in 1941, it provides some extraordinary insights into the region as it began to emerge from the torment of the Civil War.
William Cullen Bryant
Finally, during the last week of our American journey, we visited friends in Roslyn on Long Island. Founded in the 17th Century, the heart of the village still retains the charm of colonial America. On a driving tour, we stopped at Cedarmere, the home of William Cullen Bryant. I remembered him from an old collection of American poetry, which included Bryant’s most famous work, ”Thanatopsis.” While he spent most of his life editing the New York Evening Post, his poetry explored the connections between nature and the human spirit just as the Industrial Revolution was being born, an event that changed the world.
Three writers, all working journalists, each confronting important issues of their generation, each providing food for thought as we continued our journey.
© 2016 David Lee McMullen