In Memoriam: John Whitling Hall
John Hall (1934- 2017) was born in Tulsa, OK, but grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana, and always considered it “home.” He graduated from Lafayette High School, and later served in the Army for three years in an intelligence unit in Germany. Upon return, he enrolled at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (U.S.L., now the U. of Louisiana-Lafayette) where he majored in geology. John attended Southern Illinois University-Carbondale for his master’s degree. Since his bachelors was in geology, he wrote a thesis on physical geography, titled “Lithology of Missouri, South of the Missouri River,” completed in 1963. He returned to Lafayette, and taught at USL for about three years, and started part-time studies toward the Ph.D. at Louisiana State University, taking one course each semester. John soon came under the influence of Prof. Fred Kniffen, and his interests changed from physical geography, to cultural and historical geography. His dissertation was titled “Louisiana Survey Systems: Their Antecedents, Distribution, and Characteristics.” There are five land survey types in Louisiana, 1) the French long-lot, 2) the American long-lot, 3) metes and bounds, 4) the Spanish sitio, and 5) the American rectangular system. He researched the origin and distribution of these systems in great detail, as well as the settlement patterns that were established as a result of each. It was a classic study, and completed in 1970.
John accepted a position at LSU-Shreveport, where he stayed for all of his career (1967-1999). He taught both geography and anthropology, and particularly enjoyed teaching and researching American Indians. He was instrumental in establishing the “Pioneer Heritage Center” on the campus of LSU-Shreveport, which emphasized the settlement and development of NW Louisiana.
John was an excellent teacher, and he attracted a great number of students to his classes. He gave many talks across northwest Louisiana (to civic groups, schools, and the like), many of them supported by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. As well, John had a beautiful singing voice, was very involved in music at his church, and was a member of a barbershop quartet. He passed away on Sept. 28, 2017. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Carol Ann, and two daughters, Cathryn Angeles, and Carla Minor, and granddaughter, Hannah Minor.
—Malcolm L. Comeaux