Leon Hale died yesterday, March 27, 2021, at the age of ninety-nine, according to his wife, Babette Fraser Hale.
Leon Hale spent sixty-five years as a newspaperman. He went to work for the Houston Post, where he wrote for thirty years before joining the Houston Chronicle in 1984. He continued to write online for the Chronicle after his retirement in 2014.
In addition to thousands of newspaper columns, Hale authored a dozen books. Hale's last book, See You Down the Road: A Retirement Journal, was published earlier this month. Among his accolades are awards from the Headliners Foundation of Texas, United Press International, and the Associated Press. Hale was a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and a recipient of the honor society’s Jesse H. Jones Award for Fiction and the Lon Tinkle Award for lifetime achievement. His archive is housed in Special Collections at the University of Houston Libraries.
Of Hale’s writing, John Graves said his “voice in writing is the voice of the man himself. Colloquial, wise, caring . . . and wryly and powerfully humorous. And instead of fading with the years, these qualities have been intensified and refined.” Phillip Lopate, writing in the New York Times about personal essays, numbered Hale “among the top three columnists writing in America today.”
Carol Leon Hale was born on May 30, 1921, in Stephenville, Texas, to Leona and Fred Hale, a traveling salesman who moved the family to different towns during his childhood. Hale spent time in Fort Worth, Eastland, and Lubbock. He attended Texas Tech University and served as a combat gunner in the US Army Air Corps during World War II. He returned to the South Plains, attended Texas Tech University, and earned a journalism degree.
Hale and his wife made their home in Winedale, a small community near Round Top, where they continued to work on literary projects. In 1996, they founded Winedale Publishing, a small Texas press that publishes regional literary fiction and creative nonfiction.
“He was a true legend. I loved his column,” a fan wrote in tribute on Facebook. “Houston was a better city because of him, and the world was a better place.”
Hale is survived by his wife, Babette Fraser Hale, two children, three grandchildren, a stepson, and two step-grandchildren.
Plans for a memorial were not available at press time.