Hadley Read was born December 4, 1918, in Hamilton County, Iowa, where he grew up on a farm. He received a bachelor's degree in agricultural journalism in 1939 and a master's degree in agricultural economics and journalism in 1941, both from Iowa State University.
Following graduation, he worked as an economic research analyst for Ralston Purina Co. in St. Louis. After two years, he returned to Iowa, where he farmed and edited a weekly newspaper at Stanhope, Iowa. In 1944, he joined Iowa State University as assistant extension editor. In 1947, he moved to the University of Illinois to become extension editor.
In 1952 and 1953, he served as an agricultural communications consultant for six countries of western Europe helping to originate plans for the Food and Agriculture Technical Information Service (FATIS) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
In the early 1960s, he conceived the idea for a communications handbook for Illinois extension workers. The handbook was later adopted by ACE as "The Communicator's Handbook." While serving as chairman of ACE's Professional Improvement Committee, he initiated the National Project in Agricultural Communications (NPAC), one of the profession's most valuable development programs.
In 1972, he wrote "Phillip: In Search of Meaning," a book of letters and journals written by his 22-year-old terminally ill son, Phillip.
In 1974, he received ACE's highest honor for a member, the Professional Award. Following retirement in 1974, as head of the office of Agricultural Communications and as assistant extension director, he went to Indonesia and the Philippines in 1980-81 to establish an in-country university degree program in communications.
He died December 8, 1981, four days short of his 63rd birthday.