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In Loving Memory of William Alexander Haley, Sr. (Fella)

William Alexander Haley

In Loving Memory of William Alexander Haley, Sr. (Fella)

A much-loved son, father, grandfather, and brother, William Alexander Haley, Sr. (Fella), 67, of Beaufort, North Carolina, passed away peacefully at Durham VA Medical Center on December 17, 2012. He was born November 19, 1945 in Morehead City, North Carolina, and resided in Beaufort, for the past 5 years.

William was a veteran of the Vietnam War in the 101st Airborne, and chose to become a career service member of the U.S. Army from 1967 until he retired in March, 1989. During his military career, he attended the University of Maryland, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree, and later his Masters of Business Administration.

Around 1979, the Army assigned him to the Defense Department's Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI), then known as the Defense Race Relations Institute. He worked as part of an internal task force examining the causes of racial turmoil within the military.

As an instructor, he trained military members and civilians conducting seminars on race and human relations with the goal of improving race and gender diversity throughout the military ranks. In the last years before his retirement, he served as an Army recruiter in St. Louis, MO until being honorably discharged on March 31, 1989 after 22 years of service. Following his military retirement, he became the Director of Human Resources for the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

It was after the death of his father, Alex Haley, author of Roots in February of 1992, that he sought to preserve the legacy of works and the message of "family" his father often spoke about during his lifetime. Among the many things he did was to create the Haley Family Corporation in St. Louis, MO where he arranged or led Roots tours back to the village of Juffure, where his father Alex discovered the name and history of "the African" Kunta Kinte.

He also, for a time, opened and operated the Alex Haley Museum in "old" Annapolis, MD in walking distance from the Kunta Kinte–Alex Haley Memorial marking the arrival point of the slave ship that transported his ancestor Kunta Kinte from The Gambia, West Africa. Over the years he was invited to speak at many schools, groups, and associations, receiving numerous awards and recognition—among them were the NAACP, Elon University, the Detroit City Council and the Schomburg Center for Research & Black Culture. He was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Central Christian University.

He is survived by his mother, Nannie V. Haley [who passed on June 30, 2013] and sister, Lydia Ann Haley, both of North Carolina; sister, Cynthia Haley Dunn of Decatur, GA; wife, Barbara Haley of Columbia, SC; son, William Haley Jr. and wife Kim of Cypress, CA; son, Todd Haley of Columbia, SC; daughter, Tara Haley of Columbia, SC; grandchildren, Neveah of Columbia, SC; Nala and Khai of Cypress, CA; uncle, the Ambassador George W. Haley [who passed on May 13, 2015] and wife Doris of Silver Spring, MD; nephew, Michael Baker and wife Melody of Newport, NC; cousins and many beloved friends.

Sentiments From A Dear Friend, Pastor Mike Berry, Annapolis, Maryland

It with great sadness that I share the death of a dear friend. What a privilege it has been to have known and worked with Mr. William Haley. Nov. 19, 1945, USA, Death: Dec. 17, 2012, North Carolina, USA.

William Alexander Haley, son of the late Alex Haley, Pulitzer Prize author for Roots and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, passed away on Monday, December 17, 2012. Haley, a resident of Beaufort, NC for a number of years, continued his father's legacy as a writer, speaker, and historian. He was a frequent keynote speaker and panelist before educational institutions and civic organizations, and urged people of all ages to collect, document, and preserve their family history. He was particularly concerned that young families understand the importance of tracking their roots for the medical, psychological, and social benefits resulting from such research. Following the success of Roots, Haley partnered with McDonald's and Coca-Cola and took hundreds of people to the continent of Africa, where his ancestor, Kunta Kinte once lived. Additionally, he joined the Pinnacle Studios to help develop programs that allow independent filmmakers to tell stories which impact the moral compass and human values that resonate in our daily lives.

Mr. Haley was the CEO of the Alex Haley Foundation, the Founder and President of the Alex Haley Center for Cultural Values, the Alex Haley Museum in Burlington, NC, the Roots Foundation, and a key board member of the Keeper of the Word Foundation—preserving the manuscript and unpublished chapters of The Autobiography of Malcolm X. As a resident of St. Louis, Missouri, Haley served on the Small Business Advisory Board of the Federal Reserve of St. Louis, the American Association for Affirmative Action Midwest, and St Louis chapter of the National Black Child Development Institute. Most recently, he penned the forward to a book authored by his friend, attorney Gregory Reed of Detroit, which was nominated several days ago for an NAACP Image award. He was also a valuable source and point of contact for the Alex Haley Museum & Interpretive Center in Henning, TN.

Like his late father, Haley served a career in the United States military (US Army). He was an active member of the Disabled American Veterans. He was a graduate of the University of Maryland (B.S.), Webster University (M.S.), the Department of Defense Race Relations Institute, and received a Doctorate of Letters from Central Christian University. ~ Pastor Mike Berry, Crossrhythm Church, Annapolis, MD.

Exclusive Video Featuring William Alexander Haley, Sr. (Fella)

Studio 360 Tours Alex Haley's Writing Studio With Bill Haley

Kurt Andersen visits Alex Haley's writing studio with Haley's son, Bill. The studio, in the back of a building at 92 Grove Street in Manhattan, is where Alex Haley interviewed Malcolm X for The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

In the middle of Greenwich Village in Manhattan, there's a short, narrow, old-fashioned residential lane called Grove Street. And in the middle of one block of Grove Street is a nondescript brick apartment building that you'd never guess is a historic landmark.

There's no plaque on the wall outside. 92 Grove Street is a rambling 6 stories set around a courtyard—really not much more than an air shaft.

50 years ago in the back of the building was the writer's studio rented by a black journalist named Alex Haley. The same Alex Haley who'd become famous a decade later for his book Roots. Alex Haley grew up in Tennessee and that's where he raised his eldest son Bill Haley.

Exclusive Audio Interviews With William Alexander Haley, Sr.
William Haley And George Haley
Host: Tavis Smiley  January 23, 2002
National Public Radio (NPR)
Bill Haley And Juliet Walker
Host: Farai Chideya  June 4, 2007
National Public Radio (NPR)

(The above audio clips are © 2002, 2007 National Public Radio (NPR). All Rights Reserved.)

William Alexander Haley

The publication of the book Roots made a huge difference in my life, perhaps more than anything it was an imagined celebrity status. Folks more often than not would introduce me as the son of Alex Haley or the son of Roots. I must admit that this was quite a blow to my ego. My father once asked me if it were difficult being his son, I thought of the loss of my identity and replied yes it is difficult. Dad with his signature laughter: a high pitch chuckle put his big hands on my shoulders looked me in the eye and said, "The next time you feel that way, just think of Jesus, if he can be the son of God and surely you can be the son of Alex Haley". I never had a problem with identity after that.

My childhood memories are filled with the incessant sound of a typewriter, and small notebooks lying around filled with handwritten notes about a variety of subjects. I can remember my father always wrote about our family and that many of those stories written in the fifties and sixties became a part of the book called Roots, which started as a book to be called Henning, about our family and the characters that inhabited the town; it evolved, to a title called Before this Anger and finally the novel we know as Roots. Dad would often hold court with friends and acquaintances telling stories about grandma, Aunt Liz and Cousin Georgia and a host of others that I could hardly imagine were real. He would tell stores that sometime caused him to whisper so that these young ears might not understand what was being said. He and his friends would laugh so hard that they had to hold their breath to contain it. But they couldn't and would bust out in unrestrained glee; we would laugh also which resulted in dad raising his eyebrow in a menacing manner saying "what you laughing at boy?"

 The Haleys in 1954
The Haleys Leaving Kansas City For California, 1954

In the mid 1950s on our way to his new assignment in San Francisco I first learned the story of Chicken George a free slave, but not from Dad, rather from Cousin Georgia whom spun the oral histories of our family from the front porch in Henning with grandma and Aunt Liz. Cousin Georgia lived in Kansas City now and was the keeper of the family history. In the days that followed, Dad related to us stories about his side of the family that we had never heard. In retrospect, I guess he was cushioning us from the fact that we couldn't get hotel accommodations in many of the places we stopped. He made up a story about us camping out. I remember walking with him to the side door of restaurants to get food on our trip west and his upbeat attitude while smothering his pride and ego for our sake. Often, when looking at the picture of the family and our new station wagon in Kansas City, I fixate on his uniform hanging in the car window and his distance from us in the photo. The uniform, I learned from him later was to let observers know that he was on active duty and not being uppity. We had a great adventure because Dad absorbed information everywhere that we traveled; the Grand Canyon; Indian reservations; the Rocky Mountains and all the wonders of the Wild West. His stories and his strength kept us going, mother and he withstood the visors of the adventure and brought us safely to our destination, my mother and father will always be my heroes and that I owe them both a debt of gratitude. My father summed it up best when he said in his article The Power of Thank You,

"I realized that from the moment of birth we are steadily receiving someone's love, guidance, help and friendship."

Thank you, Dad. ~ William A. Haley, May 2007

(The above article is © 2007 by The Perseus Books Group. All Rights Reserved.)

Some Memorable Photos of William Alexander Haley, Sr.
Bill Haley With Artist, Patrick Morelli
The Haley Family: Annapolis, Maryland
Bill Haley With Artist, Ms. Star Allen

(Thanks To Patrick Morelli of MorelliART.com For Permission To Use These Photos)

Alex Haley Roots Foundation Contacts

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Public Speaker / Actor / Performer
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