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Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.
1909 – 1998
With characteristic modesty, Joseph A. Hall summed up his career as that of “social worker”.
During his 25 years as the first executive director of the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati, however, Hall was a major force in hiring of blacks into industries and companies previously closed to them, the integration and acceptance of blacks in mostly white neighborhoods, and the opening of educational opportunities to blacks.
A native of Warren, Ohio, Hall received degrees in social work from Wilberforce University in 1931 and Western Reserve University in 1945.
After doing case work for several years, Hall moved to Cincinnati in 1947 to become executive secretary of the Community Chest’s Division of Negro Welfare. In 1948, the division was dissolved and the Urban League of Cincinnati created to focus on issues related employment, training, housing, health and welfare. “It was a trying period in that we had so much to do, we had to start from scratch,” said Hall, 86.
As head of the Urban League in the 1950s and ’60s, Hall made broad inroads by responding to specific problems that were part of the large issues facing blacks.
He met face-to-face with the top leaders in business, education and housing, as well as neighborhood groups. Soft-spoken but firmly armed with the facts, he defused anger, debunked myths and changed attitudes. He believes that if people are given the facts, they will find the truth. His style and grace are legend among those with whom he met, worked and negotiated.
“You couldn’t throw me. I refused to get angry with people,” he remembered. “We took a lot of angry attacks. We never returned with hostility, but with a question: ‘Why do you feel that way?’ Invariably they had the facts wrong.”
Hall retired from the Urban League in 1973. From 1979 to 1992, he was an associate professor of the University of Cincinnati School of Social Work. He served as a consultant in human relations and training to more than 150 Greater Cincinnati businesses, and public and private agencies.
Hall died Monday, January 19, 1998 at Deaconess Hospital. He was 89.
Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization