Hansel Hall was one of the pioneers shaping anti-discrimination policies in Minnesota, implementing the then-new civil rights laws for federal agencies ranging from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
He was president of the Minnesota-Dakotas chapter of the NAACP in the 1980s, and consulted on civil rights issues most of his career. A nearly 30-year U.S. Air Force veteran, he was the former president of the Korean War Veterans Association.
Hall, of Minneapolis, died at age 91 on Nov. 12.
“He was a Renaissance man,” said Jesse Overton, a Minneapolis businessman and longtime friend. “Most people have one or two jobs in their lives. He had such a range of things that he did. And everything was par excellence.”
Hall was born March 12, 1927, in Gary, Ind., to Alfred and Grace Hall. He joined the Air Force in 1951, serving in Korea and achieving the rank of lieutenant colonel. He received a bachelor’s degree in business from Indiana University in 1953 and years later earned a law degree from Blackstone School of Law.
He was also a proud member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, an organization he remained involved in throughout his life, including mentoring younger leaders.
After working in Chicago, Hall moved to Minneapolis in the early 1970s to implement the federal Fair Housing Act, which made it illegal to discriminate in the rental and sale of housing.
“The law was brand-new, and it was Hansel’s job to bring it to life,” said Bill Rosenfeld, who worked for Hall in the 1970s. “If you go to an apartment today and see a little sign on the window saying you can’t discriminate, that’s how it started.”
Hall later became chief adviser on civil rights for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Overton said.
Hall was president of the regional NAACP from 1981 to 1986, traveling the three-state area to investigate discrimination complaints, lobby the legislatures on public policy issues and coordinate with national offices on major campaigns.
“Hansel was in the forefront of the battle [for civil rights] in the 1970s and 1980s,” said longtime Minneapolis civil rights activist Ron Edwards. “He was a tactician. Hansel always came with a plan. He was well respected.”
Hall also had a consulting business, Crimiel Communications, and did volunteer work that took him near and far. As president of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Parliamentarians, he traveled internationally to teach leaders how to efficiently run meetings. As former president of the Korean War Veterans Association, he traveled to Korea several times on delegations.
He mentored younger men along the way. Alex Tittle, vice president of the Business Connect program for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, said he is forever grateful for Hall’s wisdom.
“All the roles I’ve been blessed with, he’s been a mentor,” said Tittle. “His focus was on economic development. He wanted to make sure the playing field — salaries, wages — was equal for everyone, especially in public service.”
Hall’s friends called him a highly intelligent, caring man.
“He’d ask you about your wife and kids but never talk about himself,” said Tittle. “He was very social, but he also tried to educate people, to help them out. I will miss him.”
Hall is survived by his daughter, Grace J. Hall of Atlanta, and a brother, David M. Hall of Saginaw, Mich. Funeral services have been held.
Jean Hopfensperger 612 673-4511