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Tribute to Bill Hamilton

We mourn the loss of Bill Hamilton, a leader of the state and Middlesex County, and a Board member of CASA for many years. I had the privilege of knowing him for over forty years – as my state representative, a candidate for Governor, a student in my adult classes, my lawyer, a partner at CASA, and – most closely – as a valued friend.

What struck me most about Bill were his humanity and his concern for others. In his heyday, he was a major public official and a potential “power broker.” Yet he never preened in office and never abused his influence. Instead he provided an example that others should imitate today, committed to serving his constituents and the public good.  He was always respected by his peers, had the respect and friendship of both his own Democrats and nominal Republican opponents. He soon rose to the position of Speaker of the Assembly, competed effectively for the Democratic nomination for Governor, and later served as Municipal Attorney for New Brunswick and other municipalities in the area.

I will always remember – as a citizen and a political scientist – how he came to every town in his district in 1976 to persuade the voters to accept the state income tax, faced the inevitable opposition, and won their consent to this necessary means to save public education. It was the most courageous demonstration of political leadership that I have witnessed – a matchless profile in courage that I always praise to my students.

On the CASA Board, Bill was consistently wise, terse, practical, and eager to substitute realistic advice for airy rhetoric. He was instrumental in developing our good relations with the public officials of the county and state, in recruiting speakers, and in securing private donations to add to his own generous contributions of dollars and time. Fittingly, he was chosen three years ago to receive the CASA annual award for distinguished service to the organization and the children we serve. Even while quietly enduring the burdens of decreasing health, he remained involved until he passed.

Bill never lost his zeal and his commitment to the good life. He enjoyed a rare wine, a clever comment, a firm handshake, and the exchange of jokes and gentle political gossip. The last time we talked, at his nursing home, he dismissed concern about his medical condition and instead speculated on the possible 2020 Democratic candidates for president. If he could, he would vote next year, and I know he will be with us in spirit in the contest, still championing the cause of children and the search for the good society.

– Gerald Pomper, CASA Board Member

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