Monday, October 27, 2008

Tony Hillerman

As just about everyone in New Mexico knows by now, Tony Hillerman, author and gentleman, died yesterday. My tales of Tony are three.
I was in his senior news writing class in 1969 at the University of New Mexico when he floated in one day to announce the sale of his first book, The Blessing Way.
Much later, after a luncheon presentation, I observed that his writing was spare, very much in contrast to the approach of his friend Norman Zollinger, who used a lot of words. In response, Hillerman reminded the audience of what he taught us at UNM—that the adjective was the enemy of the adverb. In other words, never use substitute two words for the appropriate single word.
Over lunch in the bar at the old Al Monte's restaurant on Rio Grande, we talked about the governance of higher education in New Mexico. Hillerman said the Commission on Higher Education was originally intended to be a super board of regents to get around the lunacy of having he state's six universities enshrined in the state constitution. Once passed, however, the administration of time and the legislature were unwilling to invest political capital in making the idea work. From his post at The New Mexican, Hillerman watched UNM President Tom Popejoy start to dismantle the commission. Then Hillerman went to work for Popejoy and helped him finish the job.
Hillerman was from Sacred Heart, Oklahoma, a place too small to be on either of my two Oklahoma maps. Google Maps reports that Sacred Heart is southeast of Oklahoma City, my birthplace, at the intersection of E 1390 Road and N 3480 Road.

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