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Rev. Edward Everett Hale
(1822-1909) ~ Inducted 2007
Rev. Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909), noted author, social and economic reformer, and Unitarian minister was born in Boston. His father was a nephew of Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale, and his maternal uncle and namesake Edward Everett was a noted orator, U.S. secretary of state, U. S. senator and congressman, governor of Massachusetts, and president of Harvard.
Hale graduated from Harvard College as the second-ranking student in the Class of 1839. He then gained valuable journalistic and political experience working as a reporter on Boston’s first daily paper, the Daily Advertiser, which his father owned and edited. Meanwhile Hale prepared for the Protestant ministry. After his ordination in 1846, he became minister to the Congregationalist Church of the Unity in Worcester, Massachusetts.
During the 1840s, Hale also embarked upon a long career as a writer of stories, and later, novels and essays. These productions brought him national prominence. During a fifty-five year span he published approximately one hundred short stories of varying quality plus many socio-religious essays. His most notable effort was The Man Without a Country written in 1863 during the Civil War to rally support for the Union against the efforts of the Peace Democrats. At Hale’s death this work was described as “the most popular short story written in America,” and “the best sermon on patriotism every written.”
In the years after the Civil War, Hale’s prominence and liberal theological views allowed him to play an important role in the establishment of the Unitarian Church of America. He also became a leading spokesman for the practice of promoting good works through social action and was an influential molder of American public opinion on a range of issues, such as race relations, religious tolerance, and regulation of monopolies.
Hale became an acknowledged role model for Theodore Roosevelt who described him as “one of the most revered men in or out of the ministry in all of the United States.” Late in life, Hale was honored by his appointment as chaplain of the United States Senate and by his election to charter membership in the newly-established Academy of Arts and Letters.
Despite his strong Boston roots, Hale maintained a long and steady connection with Rhode Island. Nearly each summer from 1873 onward, he made the trek from Massachusetts to the seaside resort of Matunuck in South Kingstown where he maintained a still-extant summer home, just across the Post Road from the residence of his close friend, Rhode Island economic historian William B. Weeden. Adjacent to this summer retreat, which the Hale family owned until 1954, is the Robert Beverly Hale Library built in 1896 as a memorial to Hale’s son who died at age twenty-six. The large Victorian summer home has been recently acquired as a museum and historic site by the Kingston-based Pettasquamscutt Historical Society.
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