August 15, 1934-October 8, 2001
BY MORRIS HALLE AND NORVIN RICHARDS
KEN HALE WAS A DESCENDANT of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, whose political and religious views led to his banishment from Massachusetts by order of the General Court of the Colony. Williams made special efforts to be on good terms with the indigenous Indians, and his 1643 book Key into the language of America is one of the earliest studies in English of a Native American language. Hale felt great affinity for his seventeenth-century ancestor, not only for the latter’s interests in the language and culture of the indigenous population among whom he had come to live, but also for his radical political views.
Hale was six years old when his father, who had been a banker in Chicago, changed careers and became a rancher in Arizona. Growing up on the family ranch, Hale came in contact with speakers of Native American languages and discovered that he had an extraordinary talent for acquiring languages quickly and thoroughly, a talent that he was fortunate to retain throughout his life.
Hale did his undergraduate work in anthropology at the University of Arizona in Tucson. For graduate study he transferred to Indiana, where he worked with C. F. Voegelin, who had been an associate of Edward Sapir (NAS 1934).