James O. Hall's Legacy
James O. Hall of McLean, Virginia, devoted more than fifty years to researching, studying and analyzing the many facets of the Lincoln assassination. He inspired and assisted many of the current scholars in the field with his intense and critical research techniques and his willingness to share his knowledge with others.
Mr. Hall began his career in Oklahoma as a teacher in a one-room country school, moving on to teach history in a large high school. In January, 1941, he accepted employment with the U.S. Department of Labor. In 1942, he went into the Army, serving almost four years as a soldier and officer, three years of which he spent in Europe. His assignments were mostly special investigations. Coming home in June, 1946, he resumed his employment with the Department of Labor. He retired from government work in 1972.
In 1946, Mr. Hall began a labor of love; researching and writing occasional articles about the Civil War for various publications. When he moved to Washington, D.C., his primary interest turned to Abraham Lincoln. Over the next forty years, Mr. Hall became a recognized authority on Lincoln and the Civil War period. Our original group of volunteers was introduced to Mr. Hall when, as part of guide training before the museum opened in May, 1976, he gave a detailed lecture on John Wilkes Booth, the Surratt family, and their entanglement in the “Crime of the Century.” From then on, Mr. Hall was ever willing to assist us with further research and special projects.
In the spring of 1977, when we approached him with the idea of sponsoring a bus tour over John Wilkes Booth’s escape route, he eagerly agreed to be our guide and served in that capacity for almost 20 years. He authored a booklet to accompany the narration which still is used today. Mr. Hall was instrumental in guiding us in the compilation of other manuscripts including The Surratt Family and John Wilkes Booth, From the War Department Files and The Body in the Barn. He wrote for and contributed to numerous history magazines. He collaborated with William A. Tidwell and David W. Gaddy in writing the book, Come Retribution, which presented the Lincoln assassination field with its first “pot-stirrer” in years and set the world of Civil War academia to thinking. Mr. Hall’s research is listed in the citations of many, many other books that have been written on the subject. Mr. Hall was awarded an honorary degree as Doctor of History by Lincoln College on August 4, 1997. We have all benefited greatly from the research of this indefatigable scholar. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to acknowledge his contributions to our efforts and to honor him by dedicating the Research Center in his name.