Many people may see Tamron Hall as a rebel of sorts for walking away from her lucrative job at NBC after learning that former FOX anchor Megyn Kelly would replace her on its Today Show.
But those people, said Hall, never got a chance to meet her sister, Renate.
“If you said ‘Stop,’ she’d go,” Hall told me during a telephone interview this past week. “If you said, ‘Don’t eat that,’ she’d ask for six of them.”
“If you see me as a rebel, she was the ultimate rebel.”
It was that noisy, rebellious soul of Renate, whose bludgeoned body was found floating in her swimming pool in 2004, that called to Hall nearly a decade later, when she was discussing the possibility of doing a show for the Investigation Discovery network.
“When we decided to do the show, ‘Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall,’ it wasn’t something that I originally thought about,” said Hall, whose series began in 2013. “We were just having a conversation, and I mentioned that my sister had been murdered…
“I realized then that if I did a show, it was important for me to not just be the journalist talking to the police officer, but to talk about the impact [of violence] on family members.”
It’s an experience that Hall shares not only with the subjects of her series – which explores the circumstances behind why someone’s loved one was killed and whether justice was served – but with scores of Memphians.
Last year, 228 people were slain here. Of those, 195 were classified as murders, while the rest were classified as self-defense and justifiable homicide.
That 195 number reflects a record not seen since 1993. Yet what people forget is that it’s a number that can only measure the loss of life, and not the loss of joy from the loved ones of the murdered.
It doesn’t measure the loss of joy from Thelma Ellis – who was looking forward to someday seeing her 18-year-old granddaughter, Kiara Tatum, who was killed in a random shooting earlier this year, in a nurse uniform and not in a casket gown.
It doesn’t measure the loss of joy from the students of Christopher Waters – a renowned Shelby County Schools music teacher who was killed during a robbery in his home back in December.
And it doesn’t measure the loss of joy from Yulanda Murph and Scott Sullins – co-workers of Mia Jones, who was fatally shot while delivering Dominos pizzas last November.
So, when “Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall,” began in 2013, it began with what Hall said was a call to action; a call that was heightened by Renate’s brutal slaying, her history of domestic altercations with men, and the fact that, nearly a decade later, her slaying remains unsolved and is now, for all intents and purposes, a cold case.
“My sister has children [two sons], so whatever we do [as far as getting the case reopened] has to be a family decision,” Hall said. “But it [her series] has given me the opportunity to help families get questions answered, and to get closure…it’s given me the opportunity to help brothers and sisters and others to get a chance to speak out.”
And Hall’s Deadline series won’t be the only conduit she’ll use to give people whose lives have been upended by violent crime a chance to speak out; right now, she told me, she’s developing a series that explores rape on college campuses.
“We are diving deep into the subject of campus sexual assault,” Hall said, “and some brave young women have already come forward.”
So, Hall’s departure from NBC and MSNBC has led her to allow her memories of Renate to guide her next career steps, as well as her philanthropic ones. Hall has begun The Tamron (heart symbol) Renate Fund as part of efforts by the victim assistance organization, Safe Horizon, to help women and families suffering from the impact of domestic violence.
And by detailing the heartbreak of people who have been touched by violence, Hall may become more of an influencer than she realizes.
She may influence some aggrieved person to pick up the phone and talk to whoever has angered him or her, or call someone else for advice or mental help, as opposed to picking up a gun. She may give some women the courage to avoid – or to escape – abusive relationships. And she might even make some men aware of their own abusive tendencies, and take steps to unlearn them.
All because Hall listened to Renate’s – and her own – rebel soul. And ignored the noise around her.