Clarence A. Hall, Jr. WMRS Director 1980-1995

In Memoriam: Dr. Clarence Albert Hall, Jr.


(January 5, 1930 – August 20, 2023)

A tribute by Dr. Karen B. Loomis

“The problems are in the field.”  Those words, and the man who said them, enriched and changed my life.

I am so thankful to have studied under the direction of Dr. Clarence Hall while earning my B.S. in Geology at UCLA.  Clarence Hall is one of the classic California field geologists, a group that includes Tom Dibblee, Clem Nelson, Gary Ernst, John Crowell, Clyde Wahrhaftig, and Konrad Krauskopf, among others.  These men had boots on the ground, walked the outcrop, took strike & dip measurements with a Brunton compass, recorded everything by hand on paper topographic base maps, inked their maps at night, and published geologic maps.  (No computer-generated maps from THIS group!) 

Clarence Hall had the amazing ability to scale steep slopes like a “mountain goat.”  I still have visions of Dr. Hall scrambling on a hillside at Tick Canyon, swiftly hiking along the Z-Folds outcrop, with a string of undergrads chasing along behind him in an attempt to keep up with him, myself included.  (The Tick Canyon course, ESS 111B, was our first serious attempt to map geologic outcrops and produce a geologic map, stratigraphic column, and a report on the geologic history of the area, which was a requirement for earning a B.S. in Geology at UCLA).  More about Clarence’s mountain-goat skills in just a bit.

In the summer of 1984, Dr. Hall was not officially teaching Summer Field Geology, but he came up to the White Mountains to introduce us to the geology and to show us around so that we could choose our independent study for the second half of the Summer Field course while we were stationed (in tent cabins!) at Crooked Creek at 10,150 ft.  Three of us (Glenn, Mike, and I) chose to map the Deep Spring Formation because of Dr. Hall’s introduction to this fantastic formation.  It was the best of both worlds – we got to map a really neat set of rocks, and we also got to hike and roam the White Mountains every day, with fun side-trip adventures (like to the summit of Campito Mountain and to the bristlecone-pine-populated Shulman Grove).  In total, we ended up mapping 13 square miles of geology in just 9 days, and the other 8 days were spent measuring and describing stratigraphic sections of the Deep Spring Formation.

The basic principle that Clarence Hall instilled in me, that “the problems are in the field,” motivated me to pursue a field-based study for my graduate degree at Stanford University.   I mapped 58 square miles of geology and measured several stratigraphic sections along the west side of the San Joaquin Basin, and then Clarence had the brilliant idea of combining my geologic map with the 140 square miles of geology that he had mapped in an adjacent area of the Coast Ranges.  He oversaw the professional drafting of our maps by Barbara Widawski, and the final product was published by Geological Society of America (Hall and Loomis, 1992).  Two of those four huge map sheets now cover my office walls as a reminder of that fun and challenging endeavor and joint effort with Clarence.  

Even after Summer Field camp ended and I graduated from UCLA in 1985, Clarence and I continued to do additional geologic field work on the Deep Spring Formation in the White Mountains, which led to the publishing of an article, “Lithofacies and Paleoenvironments of the Lower Cambrian Deep Spring Formation, White-Inyo Range, Eastern California” (Loomis and Hall, 1991).

This paper was published in one of three noteworthy volumes that resulted from the White Mountain Research Station (WMRS) symposia orchestrated by Clarence during his 15-year tenure (1980-1995) as Director of the WMRS.  These research symposia focused on the geology, geomorphology, plant biology, animal biology, anthropology, archaeology, meteorology, climatology, and physiology (high-altitude studies) of the White-Inyo Range.  Clarence was editor of all three of the symposia volumes, and Vicky Doyle-Jones and Barbara Widawski assisted with the editing of two of those volumes. 

Also, while Director of WMRS, Clarence had the vision and perseverance to oversee the construction of a research facility at Crooked Creek to replace the tent cabins and single building.  This undertaking occurred from 1990-1994, and the new C.A. Hall, Jr. Lodge was dedicated in 1994.

Clarence was an absolute force of nature to have accomplished all of this as Director of the White Mountain Research Station, while simultaneously fulfilling his duties as a Professor of Geology and Dean of Physical Sciences at UCLA!

Because “the problems are in the field,” in 2018 I put boots on the ground to investigate “normal faults” surrounding Railroad Valley in east-central Nevada.  From that field assessment, I determined that those break-in-slope features are NOT fault scarps (as cited in the literature), but instead are ancient shorelines of an enormous lake that had dried up and left salt deposits deep beneath the ground surface.  This field observation is integral to our (3PL Operating, Inc.) understanding and delineation of a strategic mineral deposit that potentially will triple the USA’s supply of lithium!  “The problems are in the field” and the answers are, too.

Many people are not aware of Clarence’s personal physical feats of scaling terrain like a mountain goat, but below are some of his adventurous achievements while he was in his mid-late 50’s(!):   

  • Mt. Whitney – hiked to summit and back in 1 day (22 miles roundtrip, ~6,150 vertical feet), without even training for the trip!
  • Half Dome – hiked to summit, including climbing the metal cables, and back in 1 day (16 miles, 4,800 vertical feet)
  • Mt. Dana, Yosemite – hiked to summit and back in 1 day (6 miles, 3,000 vertical feet)
  • Grand Canyon – hiked from the south rim to the Colorado River and back in 1 day (~15 miles, 4,500 vertical feet)
  • White Mountain Peak – hiked to summit and back in 1 day (11 miles roundtrip from Barcroft Research Station, ~2,000 ft vertical feet).  Clarence probably has done this many times!

Dr. Clarence Albert Hall, Jr. was an exceptional geologist and an amazing person.  He was a positive influence in the lives of 1,000’s of students, professors, colleagues at UCLA, and people in his community.

Clarence also will be remembered for his silly sense of humor (dressing up and lecturing as Darth Vader), his quick jokes, and his ready smile. 

C.A. Hall was an inspiration to all geologists.  I will forever be grateful for Dr. Hall’s tutelage.   Clarence gave his “all” to his geologic profession, “The best profession in the world!” he proclaimed in his final correspondence with me.

Dr. Clarence Hall, Glenn Hieshima, and Mike Soreghan taking a break during their tour of the Deep Spring Formation, White Mountains, summer of 1984.  Photo by Karen Loomis.

Hall, C. A., Jr., and Loomis, K. B., 1992, Geologic map of the Kreyenhagen Hills – Sunflower (McLure) Valley area, Fresno, Kern, Kings, and Monterey Counties, California:  Geological Society of America Map and Chart Series MCH074, scale 1:24,000, 4 sheets.

Loomis, K. B., and Hall, C. A., Jr., 1991, Lithofacies and paleoenvironments of the lower Cambrian Deep Spring Formation, White-Inyo Range, eastern California, in Hall, C. A., Doyle-Jones, V., and Widawski, B., eds., Natural History of Eastern California and High-Altitude Research:  White Mountain Research Station Symposium Volume 3,The Regents of the University of California, p. 399-426.