Ada White Long

Date of Death

Ada White Long bounded into this world on May, 20, 1945, in St. Louis, Missouri, and left it behind on February 4, 2024, on St. George Island, Florida. In the intervening years, she transformed the lives of hundreds of students, collaborated with colleagues in pursuit of the preservation of liberal education, fought for equity in universities and beyond, and loved with her whole heart.

Ada was raised in St. Louis with her sister, Lydia, and her brother, Claxton. She earned a BA from Stanford University, and a PhD in English from SUNY-Albany. In 1982, she became the founding director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Honors Program, an interdisciplinary undergraduate program that was the first of its kind in the nation. She invited students of all kinds and from all places to gather in the sanctuary of the honors house for an education whose value came as much from the diversity of characters as from the content of the discourse. She shepherded students through torment and transformation when they landed, one after another, in the comforting cave of her doorless, smoke-filled office, in need of direction, wisdom, an extension on a re-write, or just a place to rest. Ada had a rare ability to take deep interest in someone’s story and then look straight past that story to perceive the individual anew so that the brightest version of a person could take shape.

Ada’s students portrayed the depth of her impact with this collection of comments: “Ada, you established a “safe space” before these words had any meaning or society gave much thought… For many broken and lost souls, that church was a respite. A welcoming retreat. A home… This universe is less without you. But, I know if there is a realm beyond here, you are opening the minds of that world in new grand ways… She made everything she touched a little smarter, a little funnier, and a little earthier… Ada was a fabulous teacher, an amazing storyteller, a startlingly sophisticated cook, and a natural magnet to all kinds of people who could appreciate her brilliance and enthusiasms… We will miss you. You made a hell of a dent in our universe.”

After retiring in 2004, Ada founded the St. George Island Trash Patrol, organized the annual Franklin County Coastal Cleanup, and volunteered with Apalachicola Riverkeeper and the Elder Care Community Council. But perhaps most importantly, she built a new sanctuary, a place where friends and family took refuge in rich conversation, debate, literature, music, and connection over food and drink that nourished souls.

Ada is preceded in death by her beloved partner, Dail Mullins. She is survived by her sister, Lydia Long, her stepson, Christopher Mullins, her stepdaughter Ashley Mullins, her grandchildren, Cleo and Fox, six nieces and nephews, and 10 great-nieces and great-nephews.

Contributions in Ada’s honor may be made to the Ada Long Creative Writing Workshop Endowed Support Fund at UAB at