By SHERRY DIGMON
Six outstanding citizens will be inducted into the Atmore Area Hall of Fame April 27.
They are Dr. Wil Baker, Robert Faircloth, Ann Gordon, Novy L. Hale, the Rev. Isaac Holt, and Wayne Stacey.
The 14th Annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Dinner is set for Saturday, April 27, 6 p.m., at The Club. Tickets, $25 each, are available at Atmore News, 128 N. Main Street. Everyone attending must have a ticket.
Please note: The deadline to purchase or reserve tickets is Thursday, April 18.
The Hall of Fame committee extends a special invitation to former inductees.
Each week, Atmore News will feature one of this year’s inductees.
Novy L. Hale
For most of his adult life, Novy Lee Hale was employed by the Department of Corrections at Fountain Correctional Facility near Atmore.
He started out as a field guard riding a horse and guarding prisoners as they worked in farm fields.
Soon he became the “Dog Warden.” In this position, he trained bloodhounds to follow the scent of prisoners who escaped. He seemed to enjoy the position and really excelled. Well, the bloodhounds, horses and inmate handlers excelled under his leadership.
The family moved away from the other houses to the “dog yard.” The dogs lived in pens beside the Hale house. He used trusted prisoners to lay a sham trail on parts of the state land. Then later in the day, he used the dogs with prisoner handlers to practice finding those sham prisoners. His dogs became very good hunters. He was asked by other law enforcement organizations to help them locate fugitives throughout the state.
Next, Hale became Deputy Warden at Fountain. The family moved into a house which was with all the other houses in a line.
During this time, he was considered for the position of Fountain warden. After several years the state commissioner moved him to Kilby prison in Montgomery. He was deputy warden of Kilby for one year. This prison was huge with many more prisoners. Also, Kilby had the electric chair. Hale did not believe in capital punishment. He believed every prisoner had good inside of them. No one should be electrocuted. He told the Commissioner his feelings and that he would not “pull the switch.”
Hale’s next move was to an “honor” camp near Montgomery where he was the warden. After two years there, he was awarded the warden position back at Fountain in Atmore. He was warden until he became too sick to work.
During his time as warden, Hale encouraged and enhanced the prison fellowship program started by Martin Weber. Also, Dr. James B. Thomas was recruited to assume medical duties for the prisoners.
Of course, Hale had a life away from the prison. He was a member of First United Methodist Church in Atmore and was an active member of the Methodist Men’s Club. He was a member of the Rotary Club and initiated a Ruritan Club in the Huxford area.
On several occasions, he spoke to male students at Escambia County High School in an effort to explain the downside of a life of crime.
His daughter, Linda H. Peacock wrote this about her father:
“Novy Lee Hale was my daddy. He was very devoted to his work with prisoners. He never talked negatively about his job or any inmates.
“He showed them respect until they didn’t deserve it. He was fair but demanded respect. For 10-12 hours each day he dealt with convicted men but he wasn’t changed by that. When he came home, he was happy and just daddy.”
Following is an excerpt of the eulogy by the Rev. T. L. Butts, Jr., First United Methodist Church of Brewton, delivered November 16, 1970 at Novy Lee Hale’s funeral:
“For more than thirty years this man has stood ten feet tall in a dark, frightening, and ever-growing corner of our “sick society” trying to rebuild the lives of social rejects; and being a friend to men whom most of us have been afraid to befriend. No matter how hard we try, we can never think of this large and lovable man, in life or in death, apart from the broken and twisted lives of the men he spent his life working to repair and redeem. As long as there was one man in prison, Novy Lee Hale could never be free. These men were his life. He had an instinct for handling them, living with them, and fishing the best out of them. He didn’t bat a thousand; but, after all, he was working with people upon whom most of us had given up –Novy never gave up on a man. And if security allowed it, and circumstances made it possible, these services today would have to be held at the Stadium in order to accommodate the convicts and exconvicts who would be here to pay tribute to “Cap’n Hale” – one of the few men in prison work who could keep the respect of the people he had to keep locked up.”
In August 1971, the Alabama Legislature adopted a resolution extolling Hale’s contribution and extending sympathy to the family following his death.
A portion of the resolution follows:
“WHEREAS, Mr. Hale served the prison system of the State of Alabama and the people of this state faithfully, ably and well for over thirty years rising through the ranks from the position of “field guard” to that of “warden” of the Atmore Prison Farm and was highly regarded professionally and as a citizen active in the affairs of Escambia County, Alabama where he will be sorely missed by his family and a host of friends; now therefore
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOUSES THEREOF CONCURRING, That this body express to the family of Mr. Hale its sincere appreciation for the long and faithful service of Novy Lee Hale to the State of Alabama and its people and notes with profound sorrow the passing of Mr. Hale and extends its sincere sympathy to his sons, Clark Hale of McComb, Mississippi; Rodney Hale of Atlanta, Georgia; Douglas Hale of Atmore, Alabama; Donald Beasley of Pensacola, Florida; and to his daughters, Mrs. Sue Duncan, Hopkinsville, Kentucky; Mrs. Sandra O’Brian of Hawaii; and Miss Linda Hale of Atmore; and to his mother, Mrs. A. A. Hale of Atmore, Alabama and to his brother Mr. John Hale of Atmore, Alabama and to other members of his family…
Novy Lee Hale died November 14, 1970.
Information provided by the Hall of Fame Committee and Mr. Hale’s family.