Former Kentucky poet laureate Hall dies

krodgers@herald-leader.comJune 25, 2009 

James Baker Hall died Thursday at his home outside Sadieville. He was 74.

Friends say that Mr. Hall had been struggling with rheumatoid arthritis, which led to a respiratory infection.

Mr. Hall, an author, photographer, teacher and poet, was Kentucky's poet laureate from 2001 to 2003.

"In sports lingo, he'd be called a triple threat," said Mr. Hall's friend and fellow photographer Guy Mendes. "He was a wonderful artist, photographer and teacher."

Mr. Hall, a Lexington native, received a bachelor's degree at the University of Kentucky in 1957, and a master's degree from Stanford University in 1961. Mr. Hall taught at Stanford, New York universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Connecticut. He became an English professor at UK in 1973, and he was UK's director of creative writing for 25 years.

"As a teacher, Jim touched the lives of thousands of people," said Gurney Norman, another friend of Mr. Hall's and Kentucky's current poet laureate. "He's the kind of teacher that students never forget, a model of someone who has lived the life of a writer.

"By teaching semester after semester for years, James Hall created a community of people he inspired. He was also a life teacher, he had wisdom."

Norman said that anyone wishing to see an exhibit of Mr. Hall's work could visit the 21C museum in Louisville.

Mr. Hall is survived by his wife, Mary Ann Taylor-Hall; three sons, Michael, Matthew and Larry; at least five grandchildren; and his sister, Ann.

A memorial service is being planned for July, friends said. Care Cremation & Funeral Service is handling the arrangements.

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