DR. WILLIAM A. SMALLEY

 

William Smalley helped develop Hmong [Mong] language 
By The Associated Press

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- William A. Smalley, who used the English alphabet to help develop a writing system for the Hmong people, who were driven from China in the 1800s, has died. He was 74.
Smalley, a former professor at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minn., died Tuesday at the Hospital of St. Raphael after suffering a heart attack.
In the 1950s, Smalley was one of three men who created a writing system for Hmong using the 26 letters in the English alphabet. It is still the most widely used system for writing in the Hmong language, and it can be read everywhere from Hmong newspapers to Web pages.
"I cannot value his work. It is invaluable," said Yang Dao, assistant director of the English Language Learner Project of the St. Paul Public Schools. "This writing system helped us to preserve our culture and tradition and history. Now it is used by Hmong all over the world."
The Hmong people were pushed from China in the 1800s, trekking south to the mountains of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The Hmong lived peacefully in the forests of China for thousands of years until the 19th century, when rulers launched a campaign of persecution to extinguish the Hmong language. Many tried to preserve it by writing it on "pa ndau," or quilts, which became documentation.
Smalley was born in Jerusalem on April 4, 1923. He graduated from Houghton College in Houghton, N.Y. in 1945. He received his doctorate in anthropological linguistics from Columbia University in 1955.
He worked for the American Bible Society in many parts of the world for eight years, starting in 1954, later moving to Thailand to serve with the United Bible Societies.
He became a teacher at Bethel College in 1978, retiring 10 years later after winning the school's distinguished teaching award.
He moved to Connecticut to be closer to his children, and after his retirement, had focused his writings on holistic approaches to missions and promoting social justice.
Survivors include his wife, Jane; two sons; a daughter; and a sister.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church in New Haven.