But if you want to read a really great story about Hemphill, check out my buddy Doug Monroe’s 2005 article, “Hemphill’s Return,” which compares the Atlanta author to country music legend Hank Williams.
I met Hemphill once or twice, but didn’t know him well. We both hung out at Manuel’s Tavern on Tuesday nights, and were two of a couple dozen journalists and politicos who filled the bar’s back room for “government-in-exile night.” Of course, Hemphill had been going to Manuel’s for 40 years. I only went occasionally between 2004-2006.
At 69, Hemphill looked much older, the result of a life of hard drinking and a recent stroke. But he was held in high regard by the Manuel’s crew, which included the former driver for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a former aid to the Mayor of Atlanta. Hemphill’s story was not happy, but it was interesting. And this was a group that traded in interesting stories.
Before he started writing, Hemphill was a ballplayer. According to Monroe, Hemphill “was a good-fielding second baseman who couldn’t hit but still drove in runs”:
“I was a buntin’ son of a bitch,” [Hemphill] says. “With two outs and a man on third and two strikes on me, I’d get the bunt sign. I’d drop it. He would score.”
Gotta respect a man who wasn’t afraid to bunt with two strikes.