Funeral services are scheduled for this Saturday for former Congressman Ralph Hall of Rockwall, who died last week at the age of 95.
Services will begin 2 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 1200 E. Yellow Jacket Lane in Rockwall. Interment will be at Rest Haven-Memorial Park, 2500 State Highway 66 E. Arrangements are being handled by Rest Haven Funeral Home in Rockwall.
Family and close friends of the late Congressman will also hold a private service on Friday evening.
Tributes have been pouring in from near and far since news broke of his passing.
Rockwall County Judge David Sweet told the Herald-Banner: “Congressman Hall was truly one of a kind, a complete gentleman who represented the best interest of his district. His commitment to his constituents was on an another level, and he set the standard for public service. He truly cared about people, and when in his presence you truly had his undivided attention. I’m better as a person for knowing Ralph Hall and truly value his friendship.”
Hall was hailed as an elder statesman who was respected by political leaders from both sides of the aisle while serving Texas for more than three decades in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“He was a role model for us all,” said former State Sen. Bob Deuell of Greenville. “He put the district and his constituents first and that’s something that doesn’t appear to be the emphasis these days,” Deuell said. “I think that’s the way he would want to be remembered.”
Hall was born in Fate and was a lifelong resident of Rockwall County. A 1941 graduate of Rockwall High School, Hall joined the U.S. Navy on Dec. 10, 1942, serving as an aircraft carrier pilot until 1945 during World War II, attaining the rank of lieutenant.
Having begun his college education at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, after the war, he attended the University of Texas and earned a law degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 1951. He was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1951 and maintained a private law practice in Rockwall for many years.
Hall first began public service in 1950, when he was elected Rockwall County judge – a position he held until 1962. At the time, Hall was still in law school and was one of the youngest county judges in Texas history. He left that office after being elected to the Texas State Senate, where he served until U.S. Rep. Ray Roberts of District 4 retired in 1980. Hall, a Democrat at the time, won the Congressional seat in a close race – the only close race of his entire political career.
Hall – who had long described himself as an “old-time conservative Democrat” – switched to the Republican Party prior to his re-election in 2004. On the final day for candidates to file for the primary that year, Hall declared himself a Republican, saying Congressional Republicans at that time had shorted his district into a spending bill, and according to Hall, when he asked why, "the only reason I was given was that I was a Democrat,” he was widely quoted as saying.
Hall also had frequently expressed concerns with his party’s criticism of then-President George H.W. Bush, a longtime friend of Hall’s.
In May 2014, after serving 17 terms, Hall lost the GOP primary to Rep. John Ratcliffe of Heath.
“Today the 4th District of Texas lost a great leader, statesman and friend,” Ratcliffe said last week after learning of Hall’s passing. “From his defense of our nation during WWII through his time as our Representative in Congress, Ralph Hall lived a remarkable life dedicated selflessly to serving his fellow citizens. Congressman Hall leaves behind a timeless legacy that will forever be remembered and appreciated by generations of Texans. Michele and I are keeping Ralph’s family and loved ones in our prayers during this difficult time.”
Gov. Greg Abbott asked Texans to offer prayers for Hall’s family as they mourn his passing.
“Congressman Hall heroically served his country in World War II and went on to a career in politics where he distinguished himself as a fiercely independent voice who put the needs of his constituents above all else,” Abbott said. “He represented the best of the Lone Star State and will be forever remembered as one of the finest Texans to ever serve our great nation."
Hall chaired the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology from 2011 to 2013.
“Ralph Hall was a legend in Congress and a true friend to many of us,” said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. “A member of the Greatest Generation, he led by example, serving first his country in World War II and then Texans with his whole heart. Heaven is gaining one of the best, and Sandy and I send our condolences to the Hall family as we mourn this great loss.”
“The nation, Texas, and our region have lost a great friend,” said Hunt County Judge Bobby Stovall. “I was honored to be present when Ralph cast the historical vote as the oldest Congressman to ever vote in the House of Representatives. The comments from representatives from both parties paid great tribute to his wonderful sense of humor and his incredible ability to work across the aisle. He will always and forever be remembered for his service to the people of this great nation.”
Hall served in the House of Representatives from Jan. 3, 1981 to Jan. 3, 2015.
At the end of his last term, Hall at age 91 was the oldest person to ever serve in Congress. He and Michigan Congressman John Dingell were the last two World War II veterans to serve in the nation’s Capitol.
He was preceded in death by his bride of 64 years, Mary Ellen Murphy, who passed away in August of 2008. He was a member of The First United Methodist Church of Rockwall for 85 years.
Hall is survived by his children, Hamp and wife Jody, Brett and wife Karen, and Blakeley and wife Catherine. He is also survived by grandson Jay Hall and wife Katherine; granddaughters Sarah Hall, Amanda Hall, and Crystal Kemper and husband Kyle; grandson Steven Lule and wife Leanna; and great-grandchildren Caden Hall, Blakeley Kemper, Theodore Kemper and Kendall Kemper.
Other survivors include nephew Mark Scott and wife Vickie and children Haley and Alec.