SOURCE AWARD RECIPIENT
Donna Hilley was a trailblazer for women in the Nashville music industry and a staunch advocate for artists and songwriters. A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Donna was the cheerleader who married the hometown high school football player, a union that would last the rest of her life. She began her career in 1958 as a typist and receptionist at Nashville's WKDA radio while still a teenager. Jack Stapp, founder of Tree International, was program director at the station. After eight years in radio, she became the assistant to the president of a Nashville advertising / PR firm, where she stayed for another eight years, before leaving to join Stapp at Tree. In 1978, Donna was named Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the small publishing company that would become an industry giant. The company was purchased by Sony in 1989, a purchase negotiated by Donna. She assumed the role of President and CEO in 1994, the first female to head a major Nashville music
company. The company merged with ATV two years later. Under her leadership, the company made major acquisitions such as the catalogs of Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Jim Reeves. Once called the "pulse of country music,"Donna also orchestrated more than 60 acquisitions, including the $157 million deal to acquire Acuff-Rose publishing and rights to some 55,000 songs. She was the first female to serve on the ASCAP board, and Entertainment Weekly ranked her #4 on its Ten Most Powerful People in Country Music. Belmont University honored her with its first ever Robert E. Mulloy Award of Excellence shortly before her retirement in 2005. She is enshrined in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
Donna passed away in 2012.