Myrna McMahan: A Personal Memory

Another of Dade's Old Guard has passed from the earth: Myrna McMahan died Sunday at age 87. She was a past publisher of The Dade County Sentinel, had written for the then- Chattanooga Times, and at the end of her long career reported on Dade County doings for The Chattanooga Free Press as a correspondent.

That was the stage of her life when I met Myrna, at some point in the early 1990s. Jewell Smalley was then the Dade Sentinel writer and I remember the two of them flanking some local official of the time who had done something naughty, pens poised above notebooks, eyes narrowed, ears pricked, questioning the poor slob mercilessly. I was there myself as a young stringer for the Times, with very little local knowledge and the interviewing skills of a not particularly bright Labrador,and I thought of Myrna and Jewell as The Big Girls.

Myrna was always kind to me and later, when I started writing for The Sentinel, she praised my column, Bob's Little Acre. Reporting for The Sentinel, when I saw her at county commission meetings I would know something big was afoot, important enough for Chattanooga to take note of in any case. She kept up her correspondent work for The Freep until very late, when she had become quite frail. I remember her on one such occasion in 2008 or -09, her hands shaking above her notepad but her eyes as sharp and snapping as ever.

Meanwhile, all through the years I've been here, I would hear Myrna stories from people all over Dade. When I interviewed ex-Sole Commissioner Dan Hall--another iconic Dade figure who died this year--he told me about Myrna as a young journalist, when she was known for her dash and derring-do but above all for her rakish good looks.

Jewell Smalley died earlier this year, in January, and now Myrna. I'm not a religioius person and I don't know anything about the afterlife but I do know this: If there really is a heaven and anybody up there is doing something wrong, they had better watch their back because Myrna and Jewell are fixin' to give 'em hell!

The funeral is at 1 p.m. on Wednesday at Moore Funeral Home. For a full obituary, please see the obit section of this newspaper, accessible from the front page.

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