Hemphill died early Saturday, according to A.S. Turner & Sons funeral home. He had spent some time in hospice care with cancer.
The son of a long-distance trucker, Hemphill grew up in Birmingham, Ala., and served with the Alabama Air National Guard. He worked in public relations and newspapers, including several years as a sports writer and columnist for The Augusta Chronicle.
He went to Atlanta in 1964 to join the short-lived Atlanta Times. He was hired away by the Atlanta Journal as a columnist.
During a Nieman Fellowship in 1968-69, he wrote "The Nashville Sound," which sold 75,000 copies in hardcover as a groundbreaking look at country music and the Grand Ole Opry.