Saxophonist, arranger, and music educator Morris Eugene (Gene) Hall was born in Whitewright, Texas, on June 12, 1913, the son of Benjamin Baxter and Leila G. (Cook) Hall. As a boy he studied the saxophone and played in church and later in a local combo called the Joy Makers. Hall performed with dance bands in the North Texas area in the 1930s and in 1934 began a two-year European tour with the Clarence Nemir Orchestra.
He graduated from North Texas State Teachers College (now the University of North Texas) in Denton, received an M.A. in 1942, and after playing with a number of bands in Texas and working in radio, began teaching at his alma mater in 1947. Hall established the first collegiate jazz degree, although it was referred to as a "dance band" major because of objections to the word jazz. He received his doctorate from New York University in 1954.
In a contest held in 1959, Hall's North Texas State dance band was selected as the best in America among college groups by the American Federation of Musicians. Also in 1959 Hall developed a jazz program at Michigan State University, where he had accepted a teaching position. He later served as chairman of the music department at College of the Desert in Palm Desert, California, and at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. He was a principal mover in the formation in 1968 of the National Association of Jazz Educators and served as its first president. He was considered the dean of Stan Kenton workshops, both at North Texas State and later at Michigan State. His master's thesis, entitled "The Development of a Curriculum for the Teaching of Dance Band Music at a College Level," became the basis for the first jazz degree, and the text, published in 1944, was still used in the twenty-first century.
Hall received the Hall of Fame Award from the International Association of Jazz Educators in 1981. In 1992 he received the Down Beat Achievement Award for Jazz Education. He had three children with his first wife, Geraldine. Several years after her death, he married Marjorie Lynn. Hall died in Denton on March 4, 1993. The Dr. M. E. "Gene" Hall Award, given at the annual North Texas Jazz Festival in Addison, was named in his honor.