“I’m a storyteller. I am a teacher at heart,” says William Hale.
“It’s a story about my journey as a cotton mill boy in a fundamentalist firebrand church to more enlightenment in later years.” This is how 89-year-young Hale describes his book The Village and Beyond: Memories of a Cotton mill Boy.
In this poignant book, Hale details how he grew from boy into man realizing the impact of his choices that eventually led him in a different direction. The book, Village and Beyond, reads like a powerful diary. Each page reveals how Hale revels in or recoils from the world of the human spirit and discovers that he will never be without questions. With humor, sensitivity, and candor, Hale delves deeply into the delicate fabric of life as he details experiences derived from a distinctive coming-of-age journey full of fun, challenges, and timeless messages. He relates to American authors and theologians Frederick Beuchner and Carlyle Marney in their beliefs to “Never underestimate the power in any one moment of time, because therein may lie the fibers from which you can weave the fabric of life someday – including this moment. Listen to your life – it is happening right now! Listen – listen.”
Hale lived in Greenville, South Carolina’s Dunean Cotton mill village for 18 years during the Depression and WWII. He describes his house as “one of approximately 200 in the village located within sight of the mill, the company store, churches, and the community gymnasium. US Highway 29 passed in front of our house.”
Hale says that he wrote this book in the hope that “each reader will see his or her own story and begin to formulate them into some expression of art – whether that expression is in verse, song, painting, or more books. Too often, significant moments pass by unheeded and underutilized; they fade ever so quietly into the cracks of our own history. It is the cavalcade of lived moments that make up our history and become the words of the master narrative of who we are.”
Hale has been a drum major of an army band, teacher, school administrator, professor, television executive, writer, husband, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Upon earning his undergraduate degree from Furman University, he taught at Gaffney High School for three years during which time he commuted to USC College of Education to earn his master’s in secondary education. Hale recalls that on June 6, 1953, “I graduated from the College of Education with a master degree. On June 19, I received a call from the school board asking me if I would like to be a principal now that he had a master’s degree. In a matter of 10 days after I earned my master’s degree in secondary education, I got a promotion from teaching world history at Gaffney High School to being its principal. I think I must have some sort of record in achieving that.”
The University of South Carolina continued to shape Hale’s future teaching pursuits when then USC President Donald Russell came to Gaffney High School to address a school assembly. President Russell, credited for reorganizing USC’s College of Education, encouraged Hale to pursue a Ph.D. in education. “I knew that I could get into higher education if I applied myself” says Hale. And so he did. Florida State University offered Hale a scholarship to earn a doctorate in philosophy of education. Hale’s educational journey is a notable accomplishment but it is even more moving given that at 7 or 8-years-old, Hale admits that he had never read a book for pleasure, nor did he own one until later in life.
Degrees in hand, Hale accepted an offer to teach educational psychology and philosophy at the Women’s College of Georgia in Milledgeville where he also directed student teaching. He then went to the University of Georgia as the associate director of the Center for Continuing Education and eventually became the director of that program.
Twenty-eight years ago, Hale retired academia and became a professional inspirational speaker and a seminar leader in the emerging field of human awareness and spoken to groups at USC numerous times. Hale has made over 2,000 speeches in the US and Europe during 1961-2010 before he retired from that platform to focus on being an author. Hale married his high school sweetheart Helen in 1946 and they now live in Athens, Georgia where he continues his work as a human awareness columnist for Georgia newspapers as well as volunteering and spending time with his family.