Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and the City of Charleston November 12 celebrated the 90th birthday of former Charleston County Council Chairman Lonnie Hamilton at the City Art Gallery. Hamilton, a retired Charleston County School District educator, band director and professional musician has dedicated many of those years to public service.
A graduate of Burke High School and South Carolina State University, Hamilton grew up in the Jenkins Terrace community of the North Area in Charleston County. He was inspired by the Jenkins Orphanage Band, having lived in close proximity to the home for Black children where the renowned band originated. The Christmas present of a saxophone from his grandfather became a ticket to places beyond his segregated community and into the hearts of his neighbors.
For 20 years Hamilton molded young musicians at Bonds-Wilson High School where he taught music to musical greats such as the late percussionist Alphonse Mouzon. Other students like Ret. Army Col. Ken Morris would become leaders in various fields in life. Hamilton taught music to over 1,200 students during his teaching career and secured college scholarships for 131.
It was one of his students who admonished him to seek a position on Charleston County Council. In 1970 Hamilton became the first African American elected to the council and later became its first African American chairman. Hamilton served on the council for 24 years.
Widower of the late Clarissa Hill Hamilton and father to three girls, Hamilton has given of himself in many ways. In recognition of his many contributions, Tecklenburg proclaimed Nov. 14, Hamilton’s birthday, Lonnie Hamilton Day in Charleston.