Of all the legacies the late Larry Hale leaves behind, one of the most visible is his investment in young Black attorneys in St. Louis.
As a result of his mentorship, three Black judges joined the bench in St. Louis County and St. Louis Circuit Court from his firm in St. Louis. They include retired St. Louis County Presiding Judge Gloria Clark Reno, the county’s first Black presiding judge (and also a 2020 ICON Awards honoree); St. Louis County Circuit Judge David L. Vincent III; and St. Louis Circuit Judge Calea Stovall-Reid.
Hale’s former law partner Veo Peoples Jr. said Hale felt strongly about representation of Black attorneys on the bench. Early in their practice together, Hale became critical of the St. Louis County Circuit Court and its lack of Black judges, People said, recalling that Hale gave comments to the Riverfront Times newspaper in St. Louis in which he blasting the lack of Black judges in the circuit.
“It was poetic justice that lawyers who had worked in our firm ultimately worked their way into the 21st Judicial Circuit as among the first African Americans there,” he said. “We’ve had Black lawyers in the city of St. Louis for over 100 years. It was ridiculous.”
Hale was 67 when he died in January of a heart attack. Born in Chicago, he earned his undergraduate degree at Wartburg College in 1974 before enrolling at Saint Louis University School of Law in 1975. He graduated from Saint Louis University School of Law in 1979 and joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri as an assistant U.S. attorney.
In 1986, Hale left the U.S. Attorney’s Office and worked alongside Harold Whitfield and legendary civil rights attorney Frankie Freeman before joining Peoples in 1988 to start a new firm, Peoples said. A year later, Dorothy White-Coleman joined the firm, which became Peoples, Hale & Coleman.
At the time of his death, Hale ran his own firm, the Hale Law Firm. He also was an adjunct professor at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law and served on the Missouri Gaming Commission.
Those who knew Hale well remember his devotion to his family, his kindness and sense of humor, his work ethic and his scrupulous ethics.
White-Coleman said he worked hard from the time he arrived in the office until he left for the day.
“Everybody who knew Larry and everybody who opposed Larry knows that he was an excellent lawyer. Larry was top of the line,” she said. “I think what distinguished him was his work ethic.”
Even in the heat of battle, she said, he was still a consummate professional.
“He wanted to win as much as anyone else — we all did — but at the same time, winning wasn’t everything to him,” she said. “It was the way you went about winning that mattered to Larry.”
Peoples said Hale had an impressive command of the English language and was incisive in his legal analysis. Additionally, he said, Hale had an ethically sound practice — a point echoed by White-Coleman.
“He did not shy away from what was right and what was required under the rules of ethics,” she said. “Anybody who suggested otherwise quickly knew that they were in the wrong place.”