Hall of Fame Class of 2015
Leon Hale, a longtime feature columnist for the Houston Chronicle, delighted a wide readership with his reflections on life in Texas, and rural Texas in particular, for nearly 60 years.
Hale, 93, the son of a store keeper and traveling salesman, as a child lived in 22 different houses in nine different West Texas towns stretching from Fort Worth to Lubbock. He graduated from Eastland High School in 1939 and enrolled at Texas Tech. In World War II, he served three years in the U.S. Army Air Corps before returning to Tech, where he earned a journalism degree in 1946.
He worked as assistant editor for the Texas A&M University Extension Service in 1947, as farm and ranch editor for the Houston Post, 1948-52, magazine editor for Humble Oil & Refining Co., 1953-55; “roving Texas columnist” for the Houston Post, 1956-83; and from 1983 to March 2014, columnist for the Houston Chronicle. A repository of his work is housed in the University of Houston Libraries, Special Collections.
Hale also served as a part-time instructor at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, contributed to Texas Parade magazine, wrote free-lance articles and authored 10 books. His awards include recognitions by the Headliners Foundation of Texas, the Associated Press and UPI wire services. He also received the Jesse H. Jones Award for fiction from the Austin-based Texas Institute of Letters for one of his two novels and the Lon Tinkle Award for Excellence Sustained Throughout a Career.
In a March 16, 2014, Chronicle article, Hale wrote about his move from the Houston Post in 1984 to crosstown rival, the Houston Chronicle. “The only doubt I had about taking a job at the Chronicle, I wasn’t sure the management there understood how old I was. Also, I had some significant limitations as a newspaper columnist. I told Loftis (Chronicle Editor Jack Loftis), ‘Look, I’m 63, I’ve got friends five years younger who have already retired. Also, I’m not one of your celebrity columnists. I don’t make speeches, I don’t play golf in charity tournaments. I don’t like to have my picture taken. I don’t judge chili cook-offs.’ “ None of those issues, Hale wrote, made any difference.
When he reached age 65, Hale asked the newspaper management if they wanted to keep him. The answer was yes. Every five years thereafter, Hale popped the same question and it was never suggested that he retire. From his porch swing in the tiny Fayette County hamlet of Winedale, Hale shared his observations and personal insights to the delight of a readership spanning Texas and reaching far beyond.