Grace Towns Hamilton (1907-1992)
Hamilton, born in Atlanta on February 10, 1907, was the oldest of the four surviving children of Harriet McNair and George Alexander Towns. She grew up in the sheltered environs of Atlanta University (later Clark Atlanta University), an integrated institution,
Returning to Atlanta, she taught psychology at Clark College and the Atlanta School of Social Work. In 1930 she married Atlanta native Henry Cooke Hamilton, the son of prominent builder Alexander D. Hamilton. The couple spent the next decade in Memphis, Tennessee, where Hamilton gave birth in 1931 to their first and only child, Eleanor. In Memphis Hamilton taught psychology at LeMoyne College, where her husband also taught; surveyed black workers for the Works Progress Administration; and developed interracial programs on numerous college campuses for the YWCA. In 1941 her husband became head of Atlanta University's high school program, and she returned with him to Atlanta, where the couple spent the rest of their lives.
In 1943 Hamilton was appointed executive director of the Atlanta Urban League (AUL), becoming one of the earliest women to hold such a post.
An interim of private consulting preceded her subsequent—and best-known—career in the Georgia legislature, where Hamilton worked tirelessly between 1965 and 1985 to expand political representation for blacks in city, county, and state governments. She was a principal architect of the 1973 Atlanta City Charter, which replaced a century-old predecessor and brought African Americans onto the Atlanta City Council for the first time in a number commensurate with their proportion of the population.
Hamilton held only one other public post, as advisor to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission from January 1985 to January 1987. She died June 17, 1992.
In 2006 Hamilton was inducted into Georgia Women of Achievement.
Sharon Mitchell Mullis, "The Public Career of Grace Towns Hamilton, a Citizen Too Busy to Hate" (Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 1976).
Lorraine Nelson Spritzer and Jean B. Bergmark, Grace Towns Hamilton and the Politics of Southern Change (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1997).
Lorraine Nelson Spritzer, Tempe, Arizona
Jean B. Bergmark, Atlanta
A project of the Georgia Humanities Council, in partnership with the University of Georgia Press, the University System of Georgia/GALILEO, and the Office of the Governor.