Lucy’s Story: Right Choices But Wrongs Still Left
By Larry Hamilton
Lucy’s Story could never have been written without my meeting Alex Haley who inspired the oral history interview of my grandmother, Esther Hannon Hamilton, in November 1975. For many years I subjected my wife, Linda, and children Lawrence, III (Butch), Cicely, Erika and Jonathan to countless hours of listening to family history stories on that tape as we drove in the car to various destinations. I thank them for their tolerance of a husband and father that was often unyielding to other family requests for more conventional listening fare.
From an early age I had an intense interest in studying history and a love for being around a large extended family group of Hamilton and Greene relatives in Loveland, Ohio, for which I can thank my parents Mary F. (Greene) and Lawrence E. Hamilton, Sr. Growing up and going to school in Loveland suited me well with inspirational teachers like Mrs. Hutchinson, who was stern and yet encouraging at the elementary level. Mr. Russell Duncanson gave me the opportunity to shine and display my knowledge of history in junior high. I became the frequent winner of his classroom history game called Line-up, which allowed me to know that I was among the best history students in the school. At the high school my focus shifted to sports more than academics, but a special thanks to Coach Stan McCoy for seeing enough athletic talent in me that an athletic grant-in-aid to Central State University was made possible.
At CSU I truly fell in love with history. I greatly admired the university president, Dr. Charles Wesley, who was a prominent historian. His fraternal scholarship and the urging of my Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity brothers to excel academically were highly motivational. While at Central I also had the good fortune to learn that the black man had an illustrious history. I thoroughly enjoyed being taught by Mrs. Wilhelmina ‘Ma’ Robinson and Dr. Joe Lewis and because of those lessons I committed myself to becoming a history teacher upon graduating from CSU.
The recruitment to teach a black history course at Piqua High School led me to move to the west central Ohio city where I was given the opportunity to teach that course for thirty consecutive years. At Piqua I was blessed to meet Arthur Thomas who mentored me in the use of genealogical tools and encouraged me in the research of the stories that my grandmother had told. The African American Genealogical Group of the Miami Valley (AAGGMV) was also helpful in providing the research skills that equipped me to use the resources made available through the assistance of Pat Van Skaik and the staff of the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library. Thanks also to AAGGMV member Bennie McRae, an expert on black soldiers and the United States Colored Troops (USCT’s) in the Civil War stationed at Camp Nelson. Thanks to the research of Dr. Richard Sears in his writing of Camp Nelson, Kentucky, which was used as a primary reference in the writing of Lucy’s Story. Archivist Shannon Wilson and the staff at Berea College have always been wonderfully supportive in research visits to the campus.
Thanks to Michael Crutcher and the Camp Nelson Foundation for their effort to preserve the history of the camp from the perspective of both the soldiers and the refugees. Special thanks go to Rita Fox from Garrard County, Kentucky, who encouraged me to submit a family history article in her publication Paint Lick Reflections, and to Judy Clark Adams who shared her family history research and gave me a tour of the farm where many of my ancestors were enslaved.
As a retired teacher I was given the opportunity by Leesa Baker to make family history presentations at the Piqua YWCA and to make black history offerings through the Piqua Library. I was further supported by the Piqua community in the formation of Promoting Recognition of Diversity (PROD), the passage of a City Resolution based upon the RIGHT Concept and the creation of a taskforce and committee on diversity formed by the City Commission. Both as a colleague at PHS and a personal friend I have long had the support of Barb Davis and her husband, Dale, who have always given me an attentive ear on various ideas and proposals. Since Barb has long had a habit of correcting my test papers and instructive materials on the blackboard at school, I have called upon her once again. Without her assistance in proofreading and offering suggestions to improve the quality of this offering, Lucy’s Story would not be what it has now become.
Thanks to my dear and loving wife who has made numerous sacrifices to allow me to travel to conduct research and make family history presentations. I thank her, too, for her artistic talent in creating illustrations within the book that enhances the visual effect in reading Lucy’s Story.
The DeLaet family was instrumental in the publication of this work. Nikki was supportive in her role as an intermediary and her computer expertise and Bob and Diane for consulting on printing matters.
It is not often possible for a teacher to experience the joy of knowing that he has made a difference in the lives of his students but it is nearly impossible to convey the joy and pride that I possess in having a student that has made such a dramatic and life-altering contribution to her teacher’s life as Christina DeLaet has by writing the story of my family history. Thank you, Tina. You actually asked for nothing but the opportunity to satisfy my desire in having this story told and written. Thank you, Tina, and thanks to your husband, Mark, and your children for their sacrifices in allowing you to labor through the completion of Lucy’s Story: Right Choices but Wrongs Still Left.
Finally, I thank GOD for ordering my path from the time of being a student in my grandmother’s Sunday School class at the Loveland Predestinarian Baptist Church unto this current time of being a member and Sunday School teacher myself at the Greater Love Missionary Baptist Church.