Jimmy Hill had always wanted to write an autobiography as a keepsake for his children and his grandchildren, but he’d always been too busy to make the time for the project.
But one day Hill realized that if he was going to accomplish his goal, he had to make himself sit down and write.
“I said that if I’m ever gonna write a book I better get on it,” Hill said. “I was actually working part-time at that time with the University of Georgia, so I retired and came home and then shortly thereafter COVID hit so it really worked out to be a perfect time for me to be home and to write the book and do all that.”
So Hill sat down and started researching and remembering, and now almost two years later the local man has officially published “They Inspired Me: My Life Journey From Gardi to Tomahawk Mountain”, an autobiography telling the story of his childhood in rural Georgia all the way through to his retirement in the mountains of Dawson County.
Hill was born in Gardi, Georgia, and lived in a tar paper shack for the first several years of his life. His father was a Baptist preacher, and Hill lived in several different counties throughout his childhood and his adult life, until he and his wife Gail moved to Dawson County 22 years ago.
Hill said that living in Dawson County has made an impact on his life, so it’s no surprise that the county and his neighbors are mentioned in his book.
“The last place we lived before here was Grayson, Georgia, but we always camped up in the mountains, so when I retired from Georgia Power in 1996 we came up to a friend’s house up here and fell in love with it,” Hill said. “It’s a small community, so you get to know people and interesting characters and I write about a lot of them in the book and tell some of their stories about them.”
The book covers story after story from Hill’s life, from spending the first several years of his life living in a tar paper shack, meeting his wife, his mother starting Mary Hill Dumplings, a frozen dumpling company that still exists today, and the tragic loss of his brother at age 14.
Something Hill said makes his autobiography unique is that he has included photos as visual illustrations throughout each chapter.
“I put 242 pictures in the book and that’s something that’s not normally done,” he said. “I went through all my parents’ pictures and pictures I had and was able to pull all of those together, so there’s a lot of old pictures that are in there.”
Hill said that an unexpected bonus to writing the book was that, through his research, he has uncovered things about his family that he didn’t know beforehand.
“One of the best things in this whole thing was I learned so much, like I thought I knew a lot about my parents but as I did research I learned so much about them,” Hill said. “For example, as I started researching I found out that in 1941 my dad had a job in Brunswick, Georgia that he never talked about but came to find out their company built 100 liberty ships for World War II.”
The title of the book, “They Inspired Me”, is a nod to those who it’s dedicated to: every person who has inspired him or made an impact on his life.
“It’s more than just a history of myself and my family, so it really turned into much more than that; it’s about life growing up, my career and the people who inspired me along the way,” Hill said. “I really struggled with the title of the book, but as I finished the book it really dawned on me what the book was all about and that’s the people that inspired me along the way.”
The biggest goal in publishing the book, Hill said, is to provide a keepsake and a chronicle of his life for his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and every generation after that. Hill currently has two children and six grandchildren, and he said that the reception to his book made the writing process worth it.
“My youngest grandson was seven when I sent him the book and he was at home in Illinois doing remote learning,” Hill said. “And he read the book and stopped in the middle of class all excited to tell the teacher and classmates ‘I have to show you this, my grandpa wrote about me’.”
Hill said that knowing he’s written down all his memories in one place is a great feeling, and that he always tells his wife that if he starts forgetting those memories she should read the book to him to remind him.
“I always tell my wife to read that back to me if I ever get to the point where I can’t remember that stuff anymore,” Hill said.
According to Hill, one of the biggest blessings he has experienced from publishing his book is the feedback he’s received from those who have read it.
“People call me all the time and say things like ‘it really reflects my life a lot growing up in the south’ or talk about how our lives are similar,” Hill said. “But I love getting calls like that; I put my number in the book and I love hearing from them.”
Hill’s book is available for purchase on his website at https://jimmy-hill.com. He has also donated two copies of it to the Dawson County Public Library for community members to check out and read, and he and his wife hope to have a booth at the Amicalola Regional Farmers Market selling his book starting at the end of May.
“You may cry a little bit, you’re gonna laugh a lot I think, and you’ll share the experiences that I’ve had over the years,” Hill said.