Texas History: Leon Hale
In March 2021, we lost an amazing writer. Born in 1921 in Stephenville, Texas, Carol Leon Hale passed away at the age of 99. In a New York Times article, media critic Phillip Lopate said that Leon Hale was among “the top three columnists writing today in America.”
For over 65 years, Hale was a regular columnist for the Houston Post and the Houston Chronicle. His witty, homespun writings garnered many well deserved awards from notable institutions like the Headliners Foundation of Texas, and the Associated Press and United Press International wire services.
Leon Hale authored 11 well-received books, each showcasing his distinctive flair for local citizens with offbeat personalities, an undercurrent that oozed cryptic sarcasm, and Texas-sized yarns. One needed to re-read his articles several times to fully grasp the philosophical brilliance that he wove into each story.
My admiration for this “roving Texas columnist” began in 1978 with his articles in the old Houston Post. As a pastor who was always on the prowl for homegrown anecdotes to bolster a sermon, Leon Hale never failed to scratch my preacher’s itch.
My library contains a number of Hale’s books, with four of them author signed. He often referred to those who read his articles as “customers,” and relished introducing the reader to intriguing characters like retired fortune teller “Madam Z,” “Old Friend Morgan,” and “My Friend Mel.” This spring, Hale released his final book, titled, “See You on Down the Road: A Retirement Journal.”
Of special interest to me was Hale’s writings about religion. While church was never his primary topic, occasionally he would use words and phrases that only devout attendees would recognize. Two hilarious stories were featured in Hale’s book, “Old Friends."
In one story, while Leon was still in the military, he and his friend stumbled into a local church. His friend had been drinking and had a bottle of whiskey in his pocket. During the altar call, the bottle fell out and his friend accidentally kicked it toward the front. Only a preacher can fully appreciate the chaos of that moment.
In another story, Hale mentions that he loved to listen to the late night preachers on the radio as he drove throughout Texas. He recollected hearing crying preachers, shouting preachers, and gasping preachers. They kept him awake!
Leon Hale always showed deep respect for God and the Church. This is something that more newspaper writers should emulate. I appreciate the Fort Bend Herald for always placing a significant Bible verse on the front page of every edition. Well done editors, and much needed.
The only hope for our world is found in the Bible. Referring to Jesus the Scripture says, “In His Name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12:21 NIV)
I salute Leon Hale. Thanks, sir, for the high standards you have set. And hopefully, we’ll all see you on down the road.