Francis Easterly Little was born in 1936 in Greeneville, Tennessee. He studied voice in high school and attended the University of Tennessee, before transferring to Tennessee State University, where he graduated in 1958. He earned a masters in music from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 1960 and a Ph.D. in vocal performance at Northwestern in 1971.
Little began singing at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1968. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Narraboth in Strauss's Salome in 1977; other roles at the Met included Cassio in Verdi's Otello, which he also sang on an RCA recording with Plšcido Domigo and Renata Scotto. With the Lyric he sang in the world premiere of Krzysztof Penderecki's Paradise Lost. In Italy, he appeared at La Scala and gave a private performance for Pope John Paul II.
Little began focusing on teaching in 1970, when he joined the faculty of DePaul University, serving as department chair from 1978 to 1982. He was president of the Music Institute of Chicago from 1987 until his retirement in 2003. His achievements include leading a drive to build a 500-seat auditorium at a renovated Greek Revival church in Evanston.
A statement on the Music Institute of Chicago's web site says: "His vision and charisma took the Institute to new levels of achievement and excellence. Frank led the then Music Center of the North Shore on an ambitious and highly successful course of growth and expansion culminating in the opening of the Evanston teaching and performance facility in 2003. During his tenure he attracted world-class faculty, tripled the student body, expanded programs and services throughout metropolitan Chicago, and changed the school's name to reflect its growing regional impact."
Little worked to attract a broader audience to music, establishing a string program at the Apostolic Church of God on Chicago's south side. He also created programs to encourage adults to return to music, and was also instrumental in furthering the Institute of Therapy through the Arts, which which offers art therapy to people with physical, psychological, and developmental needs.
He is survived by his wife Carolyn, who he married in 1963, and four children.