OUTstanding Virginians 2015

William C. Hall, Jr.: Corporate Executive, Richmond

 

WCH Latest Photo-1Reflecting on the lives of LGBT Virginians today, retired Dominion Resources executive Bill Hall calls the situation a “mixed bag.” On the plus side, it is possible to live in a fully committed same-sex relationship—as Bill does with his partner of 17 years—and be completely embraced by colleagues, friends and neighbors. Moreover, Bill says those who are trying to slow or stop marriage equality are “akin to people trying to change tires on a speeding car. It’s a lost cause.” Best of all, the attitude of the vast majority of young people toward peers who are coming out is, in Bill’s words, “Gay? Ho, hum. Who cares?”

On the other hand, the suicide rates of gay youth are still disproportionately high, and many still fear–often with good reason—that they will be thrown out of their homes. In the workplace, “you can still be fired for being gay —something that is illegal for other forms of discrimination.” Extremist groups like Westboro Baptist Church continue to make headlines, and far too many people “sadly cling to the antiquated idea that sexual orientation is a choice.”

For decades, Bill Hall has been working to turn the tide in a positive direction for LGBT Virginians—both actively, as board chair of Equality Virginia, and by example, as an openly gay man holding high-profile roles in journalism, business, and non-profit leadership.

As a teenager in Danville in the 1960s and ‘70s and then as a student at the University of Richmond, Bill observed that gay men and lesbians were shunned “and even put themselves in harm’s way” if they were out. “I repressed my gay nature,” he says. He remained in the closet after college during his tenure as a reporter and then managing editor of The Danville Register. But after he took a position in corporate communications at Dominion (then Virginia Power) in 1983, things began to change as he encountered more openly gay men and more acceptance of homosexuality from straight friends and colleagues.

In 1998, he met and fell in love with architect Bill Crosby and says his life was finally complete. “He is my life, my lover, my friend,” says Bill Hall of his name-sharing soulmate. (A wag among their friends affectionately refers to the couple as “the three-dollar Bills.”)  He soon became the first openly gay officer at Dominion. His career soared, and he retired in September 2013 as Vice President of Executive Communications after 30 years of service.

Bill describes Dominion as “totally supportive” of its LGBT employees.  In fact, corporate America is “far more accepting of LGBT relationships than many governmental entities.”  This is not surprising, says Bill, because companies are constantly competing for talent and want to attract the best and the brightest. “Being anti-LGBT actually puts corporations at a disadvantage,” Hall says.

However, Bill did not shy away from personal activism on behalf of the LGBT community.  During the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and ‘90s, Bill knew many people who died, including close friends.  He finally told himself: “I just can’t sit still on this issue,” so he became active in efforts for better healthcare and public acceptance. In 1998, he was chosen to help lead the capital campaign for a new Fan Free Clinic building in Richmond.

A few years later Bill put his exceptional organizational and persuasive skills to the task of statewide policy change as a board member and chair of Equality Virginia. His years with the organization included some of its biggest successes and toughest fights—for hospital access rights, appointment of gay judges, and marriage equality—as well as the hiring of “the outstanding James Parrish” as executive director. Bill championed the strategy of encouraging LGBT Virginians to be as open as possible as way of putting a familiar — or even family —face on policy and social issues. As an indication of the strategy’s success, he observes current polling shows the “anti-marriage equality amendment” passed in 2006 would “crash and burn” today.

Still, Bill believes that true equality will not be achieved until “we have changed not only laws, but people’s hearts and minds.” He dreams of a day when being LGBT is regarded “as American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.” Until that day comes, says Bill, “the mission of Equality Virginia will continue to be critical.”

Celebrate the freedom to marry and honor the 2015 OUTstanding Virginians by joining us at this year’s Commonwealth Dinner!