Retired English professor and historian Wade Hall dies at 81

September 29, 2015

Wade H. Hall, 81, an author and English professor who wrote the definitive book on Bellarmine University’s history, died Saturday afternoon after a long illness.

Hall, an Alabama native, taught English at Bellarmine from 1969 to 1999, when he retired and became a professor emeritus. He returned to Alabama with his longtime partner, Gregg Swem, in 2006, where he taught creative writing at a local high school and continued his own literary work.

Wade Hall (photo courtesy Gregg Swem)

Among his dozens of books and plays, he is remembered at Bellarmine for writing “High Upon a Hill: A History of Bellarmine College,” in 1999. In 1997, he published a biography of Mae Street Kidd, a distinguished member of Kentucky’s House of Representatives from 1968 to 1984. One of his last major works was “A Kentucky Anthology: Two Hundreds Years of Writing in the Bluegrass State,” published in 2005.

“The Bellarmine University community, including Maureen and me, grieves the loss of Bellarmine’s legendary teacher, scholar and author, Dr. Wade Hall, who passed away on Saturday, September 26,” said Dr. Joseph J. McGowan, Bellarmine’s president. “Wade was a brilliant, learned, generous and loving man who provided distinguished service to Bellarmine over the years, and will be especially remembered by those alumni whose lives were enriched by his teaching and friendship.”

Hall was born in Union Springs, Alabama. At age 19, having graduated from Troy State Teachers College, he worked briefly as a schoolteacher before being drafted into the U.S. Army. After service in Germany, he earned a master’s degree from the University of Alabama and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.

He became an assistant professor at the University of Florida, then moved to Kentucky in 1962, teaching at the former Kentucky Southern College before moving to Bellarmine for a 30-year career as a professor and English department chairman.

In Louisville, he wrote prodigiously, publishing books, plays, interviews, humor, poems and scholarly works, often focusing on southern culture and history. He frequently visited Alabama to collect stories for his work, including “Conecuh People: Words of Life from the Alabama Black Belt,” a 1999 collection of oral histories that was later adapted into a long-running play in Hall’s hometown.

For years, he hosted a weekly television program, “Wade Hall’s Kentucky Desk,” on KET’s Louisville affiliate. He was a regular book critic for The Courier-Journal and served as editor of the Kentucky Poetry Review for more than 15 years.

During his time in Louisville, Hall collected more than 100,000 books, vintage postcards, Civil War documents and works of art. In 2006, when Hall and Swem sold their Louisville home to move to Alabama, Hall donated many of these items - which he kept in his home - to universities and historical institutions.

The Wade Hall Collection at the Kentucky Historical Society features photographs, postcards and historical records from Kentucky. The Wade Hall Quilt Collection at the University of Kentucky features more than 100 quilts Hall collected in the region. The Wade Hall Collection of Southern History and Culture at the University of Alabama Libraries contains quilts, letters, photographs, musical recordings and illustrated sheet music.


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