“Meet your neighbor” – “Big” Don Hill
“Big” Don Hill is an institution in Grundy County. Born and raised in Beersheba Springs, his many adventures are a delight to all who know him. While Big Don enjoys telling his stories to friends, he is not boastful, and gives credit for everything in his life to the Lord.
Let’s begin with your birth.
“Well, I was born in Stone Door Road in Beersheba Springs on March 17, 1939. It snowed 6 inches that day. My mother, Thelma Rollings, and father, Richard Hill, named me Charles Donald Hill.”
Have you always lived on the mountain?
“No, when I was 3 years old we moved to Nashville. My dad went to work at a defense plant. We moved back in 1944. Now, I have to tell you, the saddest day of my life occurred that year. I remember standing at the Tracy City Train Depot at 6:30 a.m. and waving goodbye to my dad. At that time and age I thought when you went to war you didn’t come back.”
Do you have children?
“Yes, I have two from my first marriage; Rick who now runs Rick’s Market here in Beersheba, and Kathy who lives in Whitwell and is a rural mail carrier in Monteagle. I also have a son Charles D. Hill, Jr. and he is a minister and an ambulance driver.”
You’ve been a businessman on the mountain for a long time. What can you tell me about that?
“I joined the Army and when I came back I opened Don Hill’s Cash Supermarket. I worked as a long distance truck driver. I ran Don’s Superette. All of these businesses suffered from my drinking. Finally in 1975 I took my last drink and have stayed sober with the help of a 12-step program and my Lord. I then opened Big Don’s Market in 1975.”
“We are sitting in “Take a Break,” so you obviously stay busy.
“I lead every funeral in Grundy County for the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office and I run this store. ‘Take a Break,’ too.”
You have to tell us about Ruby.
“Ruby is my wife of almost twenty years, (September 17, 1994). Sam’s Club takes the credit for us getting married. We went on our first date there, and at one time I was their number one customer. I bought her engagement ring there – a ruby.”
I hear you play Bluegrass music.
“My mother bought me a guitar for $10 in 1949. I also play a fiddle now. When I was younger we had a family band called ‘The Hill Family.’ We were even invited to audition for the Grand Ole Opry in front of George D. Hat.”
Finally, you are working on a book.
“I have been inspired to tell the story of the good people of Grundy County. I have taken a leave of absence from my home church and am visiting every church in Grundy County. At my count that is between 90 and 100 churches. I’m visiting each church twice. I want to make a comparison, you see.”
Big Don has two CDs and a book about his life available for purchase and enjoys playing in his band, the Bluegrass Express.