Edward Gailon Holley was born in Pulaski, Tennessee, on November 26, 1927. During his career Holley served as a library administrator (Director of Libraries, University of Houston, 1962-1971), a library educator (Dean and Professor, School of Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1972-1985, and professor until his retirement in 1995), and a library historian. He has written over 100 books, articles, and essays on topics as diverse as library biography, the history of library education, copyright, library administration, and the place of personal morality in public life. While at the University of Houston he not only oversaw a major addition to the library, but was responsible for hiring Charles D. Churchwell as Assistant Director for Public Services, the first black professional on the campus (1967). As Dean of the School of Information and Library Sciences at Chapel Hill, Holley established a doctoral program, and expanded the Master's program to two years.
Holley has been the recipient of numerous awards including the ALA Scarecrow Press Award for his published dissertation, Charles Evans, American Biographer (1964); the ALA Melvil Dewey Award (1983); the ALA Joseph Lippincott Award (1987); and the Academic/Research Librarian of the Year Award (Association of College and Research Libraries, 1988). While at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Holley was named William Rand Kenan, Jr., Professor in 1989 and held that distinguished professorship until his retirement in 1995. In 1994 he was honored with a festschrift, For the Good of the Order: Essays in Honor of Edward G. Holley, the title bearing witness to his tireless professional devotion.