MacArthur Fellows Program

Robert H. Hall

Public Interest Journalist | Class of 1992

Public Interest Journalist
Durham, North Carolina
48 at time of award
Published July 1, 1992

About Robert's Work

Robert (Bob) Hall is a writer, researcher, and strategic thinker on a wide range of public interest issues.

Hall aided disabled mill workers in their efforts to obtain compensation for brown lung disease and set federal standards for cotton dust exposure.  In addition, he has helped mine workers in Kentucky and textile workers in North Carolina to negotiate with major corporations and worked to enable consumers throughout the South to resist utility rate increases.  Since 1984, Hall has also investigated land-ownership abuses in North Carolina and challenged the growers-processors-contract system of the poultry industry.


For 25 years he served as executive director and research director of the Institute for Southern Studies, where he helped link strategic research with grassroots social action.  He was the founding editor of the Institute’s journal, Southern Exposure.  Hall is co-executive director and research director of the nonpartisan organization, Democracy North Carolina, a regional resource center that focuses on the role of money in state politics and is committed to ensuring equal access and full participation of all voters in the electoral process.

Hall received a B.A. (1966) from Rhodes College (then Southwestern at Memphis), and an M.A. (1971) from Columbia University.

Recent News

Hall served as executive director of Democracy North Carolina until 2018, focusing on voting rights and the role of money in state politics. Through a combination of research, organizing, and lobbying, coalitions led by Democracy NC won major campaign finance and ethics reforms, same-day registration and voting, expanded early voting (including Sunday “Souls to the Polls”), pre-registration for teenagers, and other changes that elevated North Carolina’s ranking from the bottom 12 states for voter participation throughout the twentieth century to the top 12 in recent presidential elections. Hall’s investigations also led to fines and prison for corrupt Democratic and Republican politicians in the state. He has served on many boards and commissions and been honored with the NAACP’s Trailblazer Award, North Carolina ACLU’s Frank Porter Graham Award, North Carolina Press Association’s First Amendment Award, and North Carolina’s highest award for service, the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.


Updated April 2020

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