Barbara Hale was born to a gardener and his wife. After graduating from high school, Hale moved to Chicago to attend the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts with a concentration in painting.
To pay her tuition, she took modeling jobs, and the head of the Chicago Model Bureau was so enthusiastic about her that he sent her photographs to several Hollywood studios. When she graduated in 1943, Hale moved to Los Angeles and took small, often uncredited parts in film and television.
Under contract with RKO through most of the 1940s, Hale appeared in notable films such as 1943's "Higher and Higher" with Frank Sinatra and the 1949 film noir classic "The Window." She played the title role in "Lorna Doone."
After she married Bill Williams in 1946 and had three children, Hale's career slowed down. She focused on motherhood until 1956, when she was offered the role of her lifetime as Della Street in the "Perry Mason" series. Though she had reservations about working while her children were so young, Raymond Burr, who played the title role, convinced her to take the part.
Hale played Perry Mason's secretary in the series about a defense attorney who focuses on only the most difficult cases. The drama ran for nine seasons and led Hale to a 1959 Emmy win for outstanding supporting actress and another Emmy nomination in 1961.
In 1985 Burr received an offer to return to the role of Perry Mason in a guest-starring role. He accepted, with his only condition being that Barbara Hale return as well. "Perry Mason Returns" was the first of 30 made-for-TV movies based on the character of Perry Mason and, of course, his trusty secretary Della Street.
After 1985, Hale worked only on Perry Mason films, continuing to appear even after the death of Raymond Burr. Her most recent appearance on film was in "A Perry Mason Mystery: The Case of the Jealous Jokester."