William Sterling Hall (1934–2019)

William Sterling Hall was a prominent Black psychologist. Hall’s career spanned five decades, during which he produced numerous published scholarly articles and books focusing upon several areas of psychology, including language development, cognitive development, developmental neuroscience, and neuroanatomy.

William Hall was born on July 6, 1934, in Scott (Pulaski and Lonoke counties) to Joseph William Hall, who was a housing developer, and Mattie Brock Hall, an educator. Hall had two siblings, brother Joseph Lesley Hall and sister Bessie Ruth Hall Perry. Hall attended Scipio A. Jones High School in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) and graduated in 1951. Education and religion were both very important in Hall’s home; many members of his family were ministers and educators.

After high school, Hall served in the U.S. Army prior to attending Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1957. He continued his post-baccalaureate education at the University of Chicago, receiving a doctoral degree in clinical psychology in 1968. After completing his PhD, Hall continued to seek opportunities for training and knowledge in the areas of clinical psychology, developmental psychology, and neuroscience. He became a postdoctoral fellow at the American College Testing program with a focus on psychometrics in 1970. Additionally, Hall held several fellowships and visiting positions, most notably at Stanford University, Rockefeller University, Yale University, and the University of Maryland.

Hall held faculty positions at several institutions, such as the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, New York University, Princeton University, and Vassar College. However, he spent much of his career at the University of Maryland, rising in rank to Professor of Psychology and serving as chair of the department from 1993 to 2006. During his tenure there, Hall served as the co-director of the Laboratory of Comparative and Functional Neuroanatomy for the Department of Psychology.

Hall and colleagues published a variety of works, including three books on the topics of language development and neuroscience. Throughout his career, Hall contributed to numerous peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, technical reports, and professional presentations.

After Hall retired from the University of Maryland, he returned to Arkansas, settling in Little Rock (Pulaski County), as many of his nieces and nephews resided in the area. After his retirement, he held an adjunct professor position at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UA Little Rock) with the Department of Psychology, teaching several courses on gerontology and aging as well as courses related to developmental and cognitive psychology. Hall was inducted into the Arkansas Association of Black Psychology Professionals as an honorary member. He died on December 7, 2019, and is interred at the Arkansas Memorial Gardens.

For additional information:
“Interview 3 (two parts): William Sterling Hall, PhD—February 22, 2019, and March 24, 2019, Little Rock, AR.” Online at “Historical Contributions of African American Psychologists from Arkansas,” Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art. Central Arkansas Library System, Little Rock. https://robertslibrary.org/blog/historical-contributions-of-african-american-psychologists-from-arkansas/ (accessed June 8, 2022).

Obituary of William Sterling Hall. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 12, 2019. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/obituaries/2019/dec/12/dr-william-hall-2019-12-12/ (accessed June 8, 2022).

Rachel Bradley Tennial
Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville


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