State loses great public servant
Posted: Friday, September 5, 2008 12:18 pm
From president of the student body at Union City High School to the majority leader of the Tennessee Senate, Milton Hugh Hamilton Jr. served his fellow Obion Countians faithfully throughout his adult life.
Hamilton, 75, a former Union City resident who had lived in Franklin for the past five years, died today at Centennial Hospital in Nashville after a long illness. He had made his home in Dickson with his son and daughter-in-law, David and Barbara Hamilton, for the past three months.
Hamilton had learned the responsibilities of elected office early in life and served locally on the Union City Board of Education from 1960-64 and as its chairman for two years before following in the footsteps of his father, the late Milton Hugh Hamilton Sr., and placing his name on the ballot for the Tennessee House of Representatives as a Democrat. Elected to that office in 1964, he completed two terms and then expanded his constituency to much of the northern portion of West Tennessee in the state Senate, beginning in 1968. In 1977, he assumed the position of majority leader, a role he enjoyed for 10 years.
Hamilton broke ranks with Democrats, who had named him Most Effective Democratic Senator in 1972, but he retained many of his important leadership posts, such as chairmanship of the Calendar Committee and membership on the Finance, Ways and Means Committee. In 1995, serving as a Republican, he helped hand that party its first majority in the Tennessee Senate since Reconstruction and he again became majority leader.
Hamilton retired from elected public service in 1996 and was named commissioner of Environment and Conservation by former Gov. Don Sundquist, a position he held until 2003. His interest in both the history and the future of Reelfoot Lake made him an effective leader in conservation efforts related to the lake and the state park bearing its name.
Sundquist spoke about the value he placed on his long friendship with Hamilton. “Milton and his wife, Dale, were wonderful people. Milton was a person who put his state above (political) party in his governance. He always tried to do what was right. He did a lot of things for the state and for me when he was my commissioner and he did a great job. He had had life’s experience — he was an elected official — before he became commissioner, and he understood government.
“There are people in office who are in office, and then there are people in office who have earned a lot of respect from a lot of people. He was one of those people. He was in government for the right reasons. He understood how to get along with people and he understood how to get things done. He was a treasured friend,” Sundquist added.
Hamilton’s praise was echoed by former Gov. Ned Ray McWherter, who had been in the same National Guard battalion with Hamilton and who was a state representative while the Union City native served as a state senator.
“Milton was a dedicated and concerned public servant. I’ve attended numerous meetings with him. He always listened to what constituents would suggest and tell him,” McWherter said. “He tried to represent them on every issue as well as he possibly could, and he did a good job of being their representative and senator. Milton was my friend, my good friend, all his life.”
Hamilton was born Sept. 8, 1932, in Obion County. His parents were the late Annie Novelle (Rogers) and Milton Hugh Hamilton Sr. He attended school in Obion County, graduating from UCHS in 1950. He was a student at the former Memphis State University for three years and completed his degree at the former Murray (Ky.) State College in 1955. While there, he was a member of the ROTC program. Following graduation, he entered the U.S. Army with the rank of second lieutenant and served as an instructor in the Guided Missile School at Fort Bliss, Texas. His military commitment extended to the Tennessee National Guard, where he held the rank of colonel at the time of his retirement in 1977.
Following his discharge from active duty in the Army in 1957, he returned to Union City and became a traveling salesman for the former K-T Distributors. In 1963, he founded the former Volunteer Gas Co. in Troy, selling that enterprise in 1971 and becoming a salesman in the specialty advertising business.
He married the former Mary Tisdale “Dale” White in 1953. She died March 12, 2007.
He was a United Methodist and had been a steward of Union City First United Methodist Church. He had also been a member of Union City Rotary Club and the local Chamber of Commerce. A 32nd Degree Mason, he was also a Knight Templar, a Shriner and a member of Al Chymia Temple. He had been a member of the Union City Jaycees and had been named one of Tennessee’s Outstanding Young Men by that group in 1965. He had served, too, on the board of trustees of the Southern College of Optometry.
Survivors, in addition to his son and daughter-in-law, include another son and daughter-in-law, Milton Hugh Hamilton III and Sally Hamilton of Franklin; his daughter, Ann Barrett Hamilton of Broomfield, Colo.; five grandchildren, Ally (Hamilton) Wingo and Lauren Hamilton, both of Nashville, Margaret Hamilton and Milton H. “Matt” Hamilton IV, both of Franklin, and Blanton Hamilton of Dickson; his sister, Alice Marene Reid of Parsons; and several nieces and nephews and great nieces and great nephews.
Funeral services for Hamilton will be 3:30 p.m. Sunday at White-Ranson Funeral Home, with visitation there from 4-8 p.m. Saturday. The Rev. Lynn Hill of Franklin will officiate. Burial will follow in East View Cemetery.
Pallbearers will be Bart White, Skipper White, David Critchlow Jr., Scott Critchlow, David Johnson, R.T. Wingo, Billy Reid and Justin Tipton. Honorary pallbearers will be Fred Roberts, Oliver Gilliam, Robert Kirkland, David Critchlow Sr., George Botts, Al Strayhorn, Gov. Ned McWherter, Gov. Don Sundquist, Dan Weber, Charlie Durall, Congressman John Tanner, Phillip White, Larry Rice, Rick Sinclair, Dale Rogers, Jimmy Hogan, Don Hogan, Dr. Pete Blanton and members of Union City Masonic Lodge No. 538 F&AM.
The family requests that memorials be made to Union City First United Methodist Church, Franklin First United Methodist Church, American Cancer Society or the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation at 2410 Patterson St., Suite 110, Nashville, TN 37203 or through their Web site at www.minniepearl.org.
Condolences may be sent to the family at the funeral home Web site: www.white-ranson.com.
Published in The Messenger 9.5.08
Milton Hamilton Jr.