Editor’s note: I am excited to welcome the contributions of columnist David Hunter. I am confident that our readers will be as intrigued and enlightened by his columns as I have been for many years. Join me in welcoming him to this new venue of expression. –Patricia Williams, Publisher East Tennessee Enlightener
By David Hunter
My name is David Hunter and I have what has been called a checkered past, not unusual for writers in general: I cut my teeth on the Civil Rights movement at 15 in Knoxville, Tennessee; and later in Charlotte, I was a community and unpaid labor organizer. The job that made Barack Obama presidential material made me a writer.
Here’s the checkered part: I was a Knox County deputy sheriff for 15 years before my heart and scuffling on pavement put me into disability; I once wrote five years of Sunday School lessons for the AME Zion Church Publishing House in Charlotte under Dr. Louis J. Baptiste. I went through the Bible five times, which meant explaining the Apostle Paul’s admonition of “Servants obey your masters,” five times, not an easy task in the early 1970s when society was turning up-side-down for the better.
I am the author of 18 books (http://davidhunterbooks.webstarts.com/), fiction and nonfiction and was a columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel for 26 plus years. When budget cuts terminated my column, I was contacted by a lovely woman named Patricia Williams, the local publisher for the East Tennessee Enlightener. She talked to me about this column because she had been reading my work for years. I was very impressed with her intelligence and wit. So here I am, awaiting reader response.
There’s an elephant in the room, so lets if address it.: I’m a white, baby boomer male who was a career police officer for 15 years and still I have the audacity to believe I can communicate with any other reasonable human being if we respect each other.
The “white” part is a little iffy. My mother’s people were named Goin, of a mixed race people — and were called, contemptuously, Melungeon, which roughly translates to “mongrel.“ The genes turned out to be Mediterranean when DNA was discovered, nothing really mysterious except for the dark skin and sometimes pale gray eyes.
Melungeons started out as free landholders in Tennessee under the original constitution. They were declared to be “free people of color” when the state constitution was redone in 1832, forbidden to marry whites, vote or testify against white people. They owned prime land, having been there first.
After they went from actually being free to being “free people of color“ the land they owned went to paler neighbors. I do not, however, believe my genes have given me the “black experience” as some liberal whites believe. I enjoyed the privilege, though I didn’t know I had it for many years.
I am old in years, but never got the wisdom I was promised; I’m still stumbling through life making one mistake after another. I hope to become a familiar name in this new role, but that will be up to readers. I have a thousand stories and a fervent belief in the personhood of my fellow human beings. Try me a while.
David Hunter is a freelance writer and former Knox County sheriff’s deputy. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.