NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – T.K. Shamy’s voice cracked with emotion as he read into the minutes of the Dec. 18 City Council meeting Resolution R-12193 detailing the life and times of William J. Hamilton Jr.
This was much more than a document listing the many accomplishments and contributions made by the man most in New Brunswick simply knew as Bill.
And Hamilton was much more than Shamy’s predecessor as the city’s attorney.
As Shamy read the resolution, he couldn’t help by think back to all the ways Hamilton pushed him, guided him, praised him, taught him.
Hamilton passed away on Oct. 10 at age 86, leaving behind four children, nine grandchildren, a decades-long exemplary career as a public servant and countless people who knew him as a friend and a mentor.
Several of his family members, including his children – William III, Brian, Sheila and Michael – were on hand at the meeting.
When asked what were the most important things he learned while serving as an assistant under Hamilton, Shamy said, “Integrity, the ability to be a professional through thick and thin no matter what the circumstances. Hold your head high, face defeat and don’t gloat when you face victory.
“He was a classy guy, Bill Hamilton, and a smart guy,” Shamy said. “I used to say, ‘That guy forgot more about municipal law than we ever knew.’”
Hamilton served as city attorney from 1986 to 2014.
Shamy hadn’t been out of law school for long when he was hired to be an assistant in 1989. Under Hamilton, he learned the inner workings of municipal law and the human heart.
“He was not only a mentor, he was a father figure to me,” Shamy said. “I lost my father 18 years ago.”
Long before he was an attorney, Hamilton was a kid growing up in the city, attending Lincoln Elementary School, St. Peter’s Grammar School and then St. Peter’s High School. He went on to earn degrees from Rutgers and Georgetown, earn his wings as a naval aviator and was appointed to a position in Florida by then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.
Mr. Hamilton returned to New Brunswick in 1967, and in 1970, he established the firm of Hamilton and Mulligan in the Hub City. A year later, he was elected to the New Jersey General Assembly. He was re-elected 1973 and 1975.
In 1976, he was elected as majority leader and in 1977 he became Speaker of the General Assembly.
In November of that year, he was elected as a state senator from the 17th Legislative District.
Mr. Hamilton unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party nomination for governor, in 1981.
It was a tough defeat, but five years later, he began his long run as city attorney.
Shamy said, Mr. Hamilton would stop and help anyone who came to him with a question.
“He had a big heart,” Shamy said.
At the Dec. 18 council meeting, many of the members of the city’s government recalled fond remembrances of Mr. Hamilton. Council President John Anderson remembers Mr. Hamilton taking him out to Destination Dogs for dinner after meetings. Councilwoman Rebecca Escobar remembers she would have to playfully remind him to turn the ringer off on his cell phone during meetings.
Fire Director Robert Rawls led a standing ovation for the memory of Mr. Hamilton.
The resolution that Shamy read at the meeting referred to Mr. Hamilton as “a remarkable man (who) will forever be remembered in the annals of the City of New Brunswick.”