Early this morning, Bill Hobbs, a former journalist and Tennessee Republican Party spokesman, passed away at the age of 54. He’d recently been diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic liver cancer.
Hobbs, who had a multi-year battle with colon cancer, was most recently known for photographing the construction of Nashville’s 505 skyscraper at Fifth and Church St.
In recent months Hobbs told friends he had been diagnosed with liver cancer.
Jeff Hartline, a conservative commentator and member of the Wilson County Republican Party executive committee, confirmed Hobbs’ passing.
“Bill was an unafraid to say what he felt about good public policy, even disagreeing with his Republican friends at times,” Hartline said. “He did not hesitate to argue with me, which I appreciated.”
Hobbs studied American history and political science at Lipscomb University. He also attended Abilene Christian University in Texas, where he received a journalism degree.
In the mid-1990s, Hobbs reported for The Tennessean. He also had done reporting for the Nashville Business Journal and the Nashville City Paper.
Frank Sutherland, former editor of the Tennessean, said Hobbs questioned everything and was a tenacious reporter.
Hobbs began blogging in the early 2000s, sharing his views on everything from taxation to critique of newspapers.
I knew Bill Hobbs as a blogger. In 2004, I was running a blog called Blogs For Bush and Bill was a contributor there. Unfortunately, we never actually met in person. As the years passed, I took a break from blogging and he stayed active in local politics.
In 2007, Hobbs became the spokesman of the Tennessee Republican Party.
State Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, remembers Hobbs, whom she hired, as someone who was ahead of his time.
During his time at the state party, Smith said Hobbs was an early embracer of digital platforms including Twitter and Facebook, and creating video content.
Smith said by using such social media networks the party was able to communicate directly with consumers.
While at the party, Hobbs was known for several controversial moves that drew the ire of Democrats.
In Feb. 2008, he penned a press release in which he referred to “Barack Hussein Obama” while depicting the then-Illinois Senator in what the release described as “Muslim attire.”
A few months later, Hobbs once again received national attention for a video the state party produced which seized on comments that Michelle Obama made, in which she said she was proud of her country for the first time in her life.
The party’s video included a montage of Tennesseans discussing their patriotism.
In response to the video, Barack Obama said on Good Morning America that the state party needed to “think long and hard about the campaign they want to run.”
“These folks should lay off my wife,” he said.
Smith, who defended Hobbs at the time, remembers him as someone who knew how to utilize wedge issues.
“He knew how to divide an argument very clearly through bright lines,” she said.
Smith said Hobbs knew how to intensify the party’s voter base by articulating an argument in a certain way.
Politics is how I was introduced to Bill Hobbs, but our conversations in the past few years tended to be about our shared appreciation for Taylor Swift (though we both hoped she’d return to her country roots) and photography—a passion of his. His political blog eventually became a photography blog, where you can see some of his work.
Last month on Facebook, in what would be his last post there, Bill shared one of his photos of sand dunes in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado, which he called one of the most peaceful places on earth. “I realize as I face life-threatening cancer for the second time, that these sand dunes, part of Great Sand Dunes National Park, are what I think of when I hear the Bible use the word peace,” he wrote. “It is the closest I can get in my head to imagining that kind of peace.”
Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis