My Granddaddy Hamilton


Today is the day when we celebrate father’s in the United States. I’ve highlighted my dad in past Father’s Day inspired post but today I am paying homage specifically to my granddaddy Hamilton. Due to various reasons, which I choose not to discuss today I had four grandfathers but granddaddy Hamilton was at the top of the list. A retired primary school principal, he dedicated over 40 years to the education of children.

Granddaddy Hamilton & Me
Granddaddy Hamilton & Me*

In 1996 after my granddaddy had a heart attack scare as well as a very cold Chicago winter my husband and I decided to relocate to South Carolina.  During the six months that I lived with him, I learned a lot about what made him the man he’d become. Upon his death just months shy of his 95th birthday, over the years he’d received a minimum of 33 awards including the esteemed Silver Beaver Award given for over 50 years of dedicated service with the Boy Scouts of America and an Honorary Doctorate of Education from Morris College in Sumter, SC. However one of the most interesting things I learned about him was that he played Hamlet in college while attending Temple University. This was revealed while in the middle of watching a PBS program, he began to recite Shakespeare.

Another fun fact was that he always wanted to be a medical doctor but didn’t have the money for medical school. I remember telling him that as an educator he probably touched more lives than he would have done as a physician. Outside of the Silver Beaver and Doctorate, among the numerous awards he received some of the most prestigious and special were the Jefferson Award for Public Service given in Washington, DC; and the South Carolina Order of the Crescent for being the longest person to serve, on any county district school board.  My granddaddy took his first plane ride at the age of 91 to receive the Jefferson Award.

Some of the best advice I have received came from my granddaddy Hamilton. One of the main things he told me was that it is part of my legacy to be socially  involved but the most important things I do will come via invitation. I have found this advice to be very true,specifically dealing with my political activism and most recently joining the Corporate Responsibility Council associated with my employer. I am blessed to have been raised in a two parent household having the benefit of a loving dad; but the love and example of my granddaddy has also helped make me the woman I am today.




My teacher said, “she has taught all she knows,

time for me to get more learning down the road.”


Papa packed the truck with one suitcase;

Mama made me lunch with a weepy face.


Uncle and Auntie welcomed me openly,

it was nice to have my own bed even if lumpy.


Next morning woke up early to make first bell;

day one sped by and life seemed like it was going well.


Came home to a house filled with emptiness;

felt alone sitting on the stoop in despair and distress.


Shopkeeper walked by and listened to my plight,

he and his wife offered me a place for the night.


Night turned to days; days went into weeks;

six years later, all degree classes were complete.


The world welcomed me with open arms,

I met a girl whom I courted and charmed.


My beautiful girl agreed to be my wife,

new house, new baby we had a good life.


Educated the young and helped fight

incognito for human freedom and civil rights.


Worshiped and honored the Lord above,

I cannot think of anything I was devoid of.


After striving to be a good humanitarian,

I aim to make my next stop a heavenly destination.

by: J.M. Rose-Harris (c) 2011


*Photo Credits: All photos property of the author.

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