Editor's Note: State Sen. Cohen, D-Memphis, had known the late broadcaster Drue Smith for almost a generation by the time of her death last week. He was the author of the resolution renaming the Legislative Plaza press room in Nashville in honor of journalist Smith. We asked him for a reminiscence to coincide with a memorial for her on Saturday at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. This is it.)
The death of Drue Smith leaves a void in Tennessee political journalism and a chasm in the hearts of the multitude of friends she leaves behind.
Webster's Dictionary defines "unique" as "one and only, having no like or equal, and highly unusual, extraordinary." Drue was all these things and many more for she was both a true southern lady and a dedicated journalist. Drue's work ethic existed comfortably alongside her generosity of spirit. Drue's dedication to journalistic integrity will live on through her work on behalf of the Society of Professional Journalists scholarship fund.
Drue was a person of whom there are too few left--she knew and liked herself and everyone who met her concurred. In her reporting as in her dress, she expressed herself boldly and eloquently. Drue was always the first with a question at any news conference and her sense of whimsy and fun, while providing a human touch, never compromised her dogged persistence in getting answers to her pointed and informed queries.
The old press conference room, contained in what is now the Drue Smith Press Suite, will surely always echo with her distinctive, lilting voice. Hers was a career marked by grace, professionalism and longevity. Drue probably reported more news stories than any other journalist in the history of Tennessee and had greater institutional knowledge than any member of the fourth estate (or any estate for that matter).
She knew where the bodies were buried, how they got there, and the implement with which the deed was done. Nevertheless, Drue's questions were answered and her calls returned as she dealt fairly with her subjects while never flinching from her journalistic responsibilities. Drue had no hidden agenda. You knew Drue and Drue knew you.
Drue was beloved and respected by legislators, state employees, lobbyists, political activists, and her fellow journalists. She lived her life with zest and vigor, without complaint or acrimony. Drue was a trouper. The halls of the Legislative Plaza and the State Capitol will be drearier without her color and wit. There will never be another Drue Smith and we'll never be the same without her.
(During her lengthy career, Drue Smith provided broadcast coverage of the Tennessee legislature for United Press International, radio station WLAC-AM, and the Tennessee Radio Network , among others.
Smith was named National Broadcaster of the Year by American Women in Radio and TV and Woman of the Year by the Business and Professional Women's Club, the Tennessee Press Women, the Pilot Club and the Altrusa Club.
By resolution of the General Assembly, the press room at Legislative Plaza was renamed last year in her honor. Sen. Cohen authored the resolution.)