Breaking News: Beloved Tennessean Journalist Clara Hieronymus is Dead

ClaraHieronymusClara Hieronymus, whose prose on arts graced the pages of The Tennessean for more than 40 years, died Saturday in Savannah, Tenn., according to her daughter-in-law Martha Hieronymus.

“She went peacefully at home around 9:05 p.m.,” Martha Hieronymus tells ArtsNash. Per a 1982 agreement her remains have been donated to Vanderbilt University Medical Center; there are continuing discussions about a possible memorial service.

Hieronymus celebrated her 100th birthday on July 25. She was a co-founder and longtime executive secretary of the American Theatre Critics Association.

“She really appreciated the outpouring of good wishes from so many people (around her birthdays and at other times),” Martha Hieronymus says. “She read her mail every day and was so happy to hear from so many wonderful folks.”

ArtsNash will update as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: Reaction to Hieronymus’ passing is starting to come in from colleagues around the country. Former Los Angeles Times theater critic and recently retired National Critics Institute Director Dan Sullivan, who toured children’s theaters across the nation with her in 1972, tells ArtsNash, “She was my role model in that she was so good for the community. She did everything she could to foster more than just the arts in Nashville…and Clara took no lip from anybody and I always admired that.”

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Nashville Children’s Theatre, the Clara Hieronymus Scholarship Fund at Tennessee Performing Arts Center, O’More College of Design or West End United Methodist Church.

UPDATE 2: One of the best quotes concerning Clara comes from a longtime member of the Nashville theater community, Danny Proctor, who posted this on Facebook: “A rare breed. We rolled our eyes and said, ‘Who cares if she didn’t like us?’ But we rejoiced when she did. Lights should dim tonight in her honor.”

UPDATE 3: The Jerome Lawrence & Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute which houses The Clara Hieronymus Collection at the Ohio State University Libraries has a tribute to her on its blog.

*Photo of Clara Hieronymus by Dennis Wile courtesy the photographer.

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About Evans Donnell

Evans Donnell is the chief theater, film and opera critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He wrote reviews and features about theater, opera and classical music for The Tennessean from 2002 to 2011. He was the theater, film and opera critic for from 2011 to 2012. Donnell has also contributed to The Sondheim Review, Back Stage, The City Paper (Nashville), the Nashville Banner, The (Bowling Green, Ky.) Daily News and several other publications since beginning his professional journalism career in 1985 with The Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat. He was selected as a fellow for the 2004 National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and for National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) arts journalism institutes for theater and musical theater at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism in 2006 and classical music and opera at the Columbia University School of Journalism in 2009. He has also been an actor (member of Actors Equity Association and SAG-AFTRA), founding and running AthensSouth Theatre from 1996 to 2001 and appearing in Milos Forman's "The People vs Larry Flynt" among other credits. Donnell is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (


  1. Clara was a fine critic and a really great lady, a model to us all in the American Theatre Critics Association that she helped found and then direct for so many years. We are fortunate to have had her with us so long and we mourn her passing.

  2. In Nashville back in the 70s if you were black you got the Tennessean. So I grew up reading Ms. Hieronymus because my parents admired her. I think one of their proudest days was when she did an article on the interior design of my dad’s law firm because it incorporated African art and sienna colors which was fairly new at the time.

  3. David C. Driskell, Distinguished University Professor of Art, Emeritus, University of MD, College Park says:

    Clara Hieronymus was also a voice for visual artists in Nashville and at times nationally. She did more to improve the conversation between artists of all media across racial and ethnic lines in Nashville in the 1960s and subsequent years than anyone in her field at a time when a new cultural dialogue was so much needed in the South. She will be greatly missed.

  4. Please tell me that someone has written a biography about Clara? Or hopefully she wrote her own story? And I hope that someone shares the lovely experience of going to New York for Broadway plays along with the food and excitement of such an adventure! Someone should carry on THAT delicious treat at least twice a year! Facebook the details and I’ll sign up!

  5. Scot Copeland says:

    A great, great lady who lived a wonderful life. I am so lucky to have known her, and I celebrate her life. There is absolutely no one who has had more positive impact on the cultural life of Nashville than she. Dear Clara, I will never forget you.