Tradition of Excellence

I'm NOT the author of the articles. I'm chronicling the stories you may have missed.

Pioneer Fairfield educator Ethel Hall recalls life, career in book

leave a comment »

By Jeremy Gray, The Birmingham News

Ethel Hall’s decades long career in education took her from the classroom to the Alabama Board of Educa­tion.

The Fairfield Democrat is retiring from the board after 24 years, including 10 as vice president, and has writ­ten about her life and work as an educator.

Former students filed into the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on Thursday night as Hall signed copies of “My Journey: A Memoir of the First African American to Preside Over the Alabama Board of Education,” which she co-wrote with Carmelita Bivens.

“You wanted to be like her. She was knowledge­able, smart, pretty and well­-dressed,” recalled Sammie T. Stevenson, a former stu­dent of Hall’s who grad­uated from Westfield High School in 1963.

Classrooms were different in those days, Hall said. “There was no special edu­cation. Everyone took the same classes and everyone did it. We made our own gifted classes; all our stu­dents were gifted,” she said.

Hall spent 12 years at Westfield, which served stu­dents from across west Jef­ferson County, before taking a job working with dropouts as part of a U.S. Department of Labor program.

Hall was soon back in the classroom, this time at the University of Montevallo, where for a time she was the school’s only black instruc­tor. The University of Ala­bama recruited her and she retired from there in 1999.

To get her education, Hall at age 7 had to move to Bir­mingham from Madison County to live with her grandparents. “My parents didn’t live near a school. I had no way to get there,” Hall said.

Hall said much of the book recounts her work on the school board.

She thought of sitting out the 2006 race when her hus­band of 55 years, Alfred Hall, became ill. He died that same year.

Hall said friends and con­stituents urged her to seek one last term. At times, Hall said supporters urged her to run for other offices, such as the state legislature.

“I never wanted to do that. I’ve just been inter­ested in education,” Hall said.

Join the conversation, add a comment or e-mail:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: