Reflections on Mark Hummels, Tucson and Gun Violence

Roger E. Hartley, a former UA professor of public policy, remembers attorney Mark Hummels, who died this week after being shot in Phoenix:

I was offered a chance to write today in the wake of the death of my friend, Mark Hummels, after he was taken from us in the tragic shooting this week in Phoenix. Like all of us who experience loss or just hear about it, we quickly find our empathy, we find kindness in others, we work through what we are charged to do, and reflect. As I put paper to pen…or pixels to pixels…I’m left considering what I should tell you about my friend in this rare opportunity to write and, as I reflect on Mark, my time in Tucson, and on gun violence. Before I go on, I have to say that for anyone who reads this that knew Mark and loved him and his family, I can only guess how much you are hurting. I hope that nothing I say today hurts you more. I am devastated for Mark’s wife Dana, and his children, whom he deeply loved. I am devastated for each of you who knew him and who are hurting right now. But I have come to learn that so many of us find our empathy quickly because so many of us have been there.

My wife and I met Mark and Dana in 2001 when we moved from out east to Tucson. We left our families behind and knew virtually no one in Arizona. We stayed until 2010. Some of you know that I served the University of Arizona as a professor from 2001 to 2010. I met so many people and learned so much from my time in Arizona. I left for a lot of reasons but most of all to raise my boy in Appalachia and be closer to my family. I also left because I felt a bit out of place after 10 years…professionally and personally. When I left, I wasn’t sure I would come back. I haven’t been back. Like a lot of men, I just left, kept in touch with some, and tried hard to keep from missing people as I took on my new life with every bit of enthusiasm I could. For my wife, Melissa…well she missed Tucson the day she left. I tried hard not to think much about Tucson probably because I knew I would miss it. Things just keep dragging me back and sadly it has been a series of tragedies culminating in Mark’s death just yesterday.

First, on Mark. Mark was in my wife’s law school class. They hit it off..and he and I did. Our families spent a lot of time together and so did he and I. I’ve never met anyone like him. So brilliant, so serious about his work, so driven, so motivated, but all of that was wrapped into a quirky, truly unusual person. You would never know that Mark was a prestigious attorney of journalist if you met him outside the office. If you have read the news about his passing you now know that he grew up in Greeley, Colorado, attended Colorado College, Cal-Berkeley for journalism school, and lived in Santa Fe, NM working as a reporter. He left journalism for law school at Arizona. He loved it. He loved ideas, he loved the work, and was competitive. He graduated number 1 in his class and later passed the bar with the highest score. The photos of him are in a tie, at a very prestigious law firm in Phoenix. Those things were him to some degree as our work and passions are a part of all of us. What people will not know is that Mark eagerly rode a unicycle… with off-road tires…sometimes while juggling. He enjoyed infomercials and bought stuff that people just don’t buy off TV like Ronko knives. You might have seen him on a beach in Mexico with a giant grasshopper tattoo on his arm, or as I did one weekend, playing with his children while wearing a Santos mask. He took every piece of life that was offered to him and squeezed every drop from it. He liked to play. Mark gravitated to people no matter what the station of life or background. I think he preferred the company of ordinary people. He was infectious and when I had the opportunity to see him, I knew that it would be an adventure. He would have loved the my new, odd, city of Asheville with its craft beers, drum circle, and trippy people. One of the things I will always regret is that hat is that he never got to see it.