Lonnie Hamilton: Bonds-Wilson Band Director


Born in 1927, Lonnie Hamilton is one of the most well known names associated with the Bonds-Wilson campus. He was born and raised in Charleston, and attended Burke High School in the 40s. His music career has its roots in this era, as he played the saxophone in the Jenkins’ Orphanage Band. Through his involvement with this band and his stellar musical capability, Hamilton was offered a music scholarship to attend South Carolina State College.

Following his collegiate experience, Hamilton became a Band Instructor, first in Union, SC, then at Bonds-Wilson High School. It was in 1955 that the school offered him this position and he aimed to expose the students to music, as they “had never seen a marching band before.” Later, in 1970, he attended a Civic Club meeting because he “felt that the kids should be involved in all activities of the community.” Hamilton took his students to play at orphanages, and it was through this charity that Henry Wright decided to ask for him to run for County Council, as none of the current officials were responding to the needs of the community. Wright continued to ask for Hamilton to run, and he did after an emotional encounter that involved 24 impoverished children donating their lunch money for his campaign.

However, his campaign was not without opposition. When he first came to the superintendent’s office he was encouraged to pursue the County Council position, but was later asked to step down. Hamilton claims this was due to the fact that a friend of a school board member was running, and had put pressure on the superintendent to discourage Hamilton from running. They claimed that if he ran for County Council, he would be fired. But, Hamilton called in two attorneys who wrote to the board that there was no way to prevent him from running. He ended up running, and winning, his first election in a 66% white community. Adding to his list of achievements, he served as chairman of South Carolina Association of Counties and was elected to the Board of Spoleto USA. In his own words, Hamilton states, “the kinds of success that I have had is related to my love for my city.”

AMHS students had the opportunity to hear Mr. Hamilton play his saxophone at the recent Boys of Liberty Hill Symposium at Patriot’s Point. To read more about that click here.