Happy Birthday Grace Towns Hamilton!


Happy Birthday Grace Towns Hamilton!

Hamilton was born February 10, 1907 in Atlanta, Georgia. Born to two activist scholars, Harriet McNair and George Alexander Towns she grew up in an environment where fighting for change was encouraged and modeled. Her father was a professor of English and pedagogy at the Atlanta University. Hamilton grew up running around the University with her father, until she eventually got her undergraduate degree there in1927. She next moved on to Ohio State University for a master’s degree in psychology. During her time at Ohio State she worked as a Girl’s Work Secretary with the Young Women’s Christian Association of Columbus.

After completion of her master’s Hamilton moved back to Atlanta, teach psychology at Clark College and the Atlanta School of Social Work. In 1930, Hamilton married fellow activist Henry Cooke Hamilton. A native to Atlanta, Henry Cooke Hamilton was now teaching in Memphis; Hamilton quickly moved to join him. In 1931 they had their first and only child, Eleanor. Both Grace and Henry Hamilton taught at LeMoyne College in Memphis. Henry Hamilton also, “surveyed black workers for the Works Progress Administration; and developed interracial programs on numerous college campuses”. In 1941 the family moved back to Atlanta upon Mr. Hamilton becoming head of Atlanta University’s high school program.


One of the first women to hold the position, Hamilton became the executive director of the Atlanta Urban League (AUL) in 1943. Hamilton led the League in a different direction than the National Urban League’s focus on employment. Instead the Atlanta Urban Leaguewaged intensive campaigns within the confines of segregation for advances in schooling, health care, housing and voting rights for African Americans”. In 1961 she would lose her position because of conflicts with the National organization because of this different focus.

Following this loss Hamilton worked as a private consultant until 1965 when she won the Democratic nomination for state representative for Atlanta’s 31st district. In 1966 Hamilton was sworn into office, the first African-American woman elected to the Georgia General Assembly. She would stay in this position for the next 18 years. In 1973, Hamilton was the principal architect of the Atlanta City Charter, bringing African Americans onto the Atlantic City for the first time in a number that was proportionate to their percentage of the population.

Hamilton and her family contributed greatly to an in crease in African American voters, supporting organizations like the Atlanta Negro Voters League (ANVL). In 1980 Hamilton aligned herself with white leadership against African Americans who wanted Atlanta to be redistricted for the advantage of African Americans. Hamilton’s opposition caused uproar in the African American community and would lead to her defeat in the 1984 election. Despite the loss Hamilton worked as another public post, advisor to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission from 1985 to 1987, when her husband passed.

Hamilton passed in 1992 but her work and legacy lives on. To name a few ways, the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus created the Grace Towns Hamilton Leadership Award and the Grady Memorial Hospital named its Women’s and Infant’s Pavilion in her honor.

Happy Birthday Grace Towns Hamilton!











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