Facing South

Bob Hall: A true progressive gets his due

Bob Hall -- the co-director of the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina, whose investigations into campaign finance irregularities may well bring down NC House Speaker Jim Black (D) -- is getting some much-deserved publicity for his passionate work for democracy.

As readers may know, Bob worked at the Institute for Southern Studies from 1972 to 1995, establishing our research department and giving birth to our magazine, Southern Exposure. (He's still involved; he's on the Advisory Board of a special Institute fund launched in his honor, the Bob Hall Investigative Action Fund.)

A pioneering investigative researcher and reporter, from his perch at ISS and now Democracy NC he has exposed countless powerful elites and inspired dozens of critical reforms, such as North Carolina's "Clean Elections" law for public financing in judicial elections.

For decades, Bob has toiled to promote greater democracy, equality and justice. But he's the classic "unsung hero" -- an unassuming radical who detests grand-standing and puffery, and who's content to work behind the scenes and give others credit while winning real, concrete victories. To give you a sense of how far he stays out of the limelight, when we threw a Southern Exposure anniversary party a few years ago, we could only find one photo of Bob in the files!

Bob's work also stands in sharp contrast to that of other political operations in today's hyper-partisan climate, where groups get excited about scandals in one political party but ignore wrong-doing in the other, and where real investigative reporting and research is confused with "getting dirt" on this or that politician.

Bob stays focused on a much bigger prize: reforming the bigger system of money-driven politics, and expanding the franchise for ordinary people. As he told the Charlotte Observer,

We'll just be back here in another month or two with another cast of characters unless we change the system fundamentally.

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