Lawrence Sargent Hall Biography

Biography (Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Lawrence Sargent Hall was born in Haverill, Massachusetts, on April 23, 1915, and graduated in 1936 from Bowdoin College, where he won several awards, including the Hawthorne Prize. After graduation he taught at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts before entering Yale University in 1938. After receiving his doctorate in 1941 (his dissertation was on Nathaniel Hawthorne, also a Bowdoin graduate), he taught at Ohio University and then at the United States Naval Academy until 1942, when he began a four-year tour in the Navy. He served in the South Pacific before being discharged with the rank of lieutenant commander.

After the war Hall returned to Bowdoin as an assistant professor of English and, aside from a year (1955-1956) as a Carnegie Visiting Professor at Columbia University, he spent the remainder of his teaching career at Bowdoin, retiring in 1986. His O. Henry Award-winning short story, “The Ledge,” which appeared in 1959, was followed by his Faulkner Award-winning Stowaway in 1961, but despite his phenomenal debut in fiction, he published only two additional short stories. His eclectic interests included taking trips down the Mississippi in his dory, Way Out, serving on the Ford Foundation committee that created the Advanced Placement Program of the College Entrance Examination Board, teaching at summer institutes under the National Defense Education Act, and serving on the Maine State Commission for the Arts and Humanities. In addition to academic pursuits, Hall was active in environmental matters, cruising the Maine coast in 1970 to prevent the establishment of oil refineries there. He was also given credit for single-handedly preventing the state of Maine from turning Route 24 into a four-lane highway. After a career in teaching and operating a boatyard on the Maine coast, he died October 28, 1993, at his home in Orr’s Island, Maine.