Eugene N. Hamilton, a Harvard Law School Lecturer on Law and former chief judge of the D.C. Superior Court, who was revered as a great trial advocacy teacher, mentor and advocate for children, died Saturday, Nov. 19. Hamilton lectured at Harvard Law School for nearly 30 years, most recently teaching in HLS’s Trial Advocacy Workshop.
Dean Martha Minow said: “For nearly three decades, Eugene Hamilton taught the skills of trial advocacy to Harvard Law School students. He did this with grace, passion, warmth and an unwavering commitment to excellence. He was a mentor and a friend to many people here over the years, and we were tremendously fortunate to have the benefit of his courtroom know-how and the practical training that he brought to our classrooms. We will miss him greatly.”
The second African American to lead the Superior Court, Hamilton “established a reputation as a strong advocate for children and youths,” according to The Washington Post.
During his tenure as chief judge, the Superior Court began a pilot program for juvenile nonviolent offenders, called Urban Services Corps, The Post reported. The program combined a boot camp-like training program with months of supervision and job training.
Professor Charles Ogletree, director of HLS’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, said: “Judge Eugene Hamilton was a teacher and mentor to hundreds of Harvard Law School students over the past three decades. He was a wonderful critic, shaping our students’ ability to see the nuances in being great lawyers. His role as a thoughtful judge has been a godsend, and we will miss him in the Trial Advocacy Workshop. As a lawyer in D.C., I always learned from him during my formative years as a public defender. He was tough but always finding the right teachable moment for young lawyers. He will be sorely missed.”
Professor Ron Sullivan, director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute, added: “Judge Hamilton served Harvard Law School with the same vim and passion that characterized his 30 years on the D.C. Superior Court bench. He was an accomplished and inspiring teacher of trial advocacy; a fair-minded and compassionate judge; and, most important, a terrific human being who impacted every community with which he came in touch.”
Hamilton, born Aug. 24, 1933, in Memphis, was known as someone who never forgot his modest origins. Judge Anita Josey-Herring of the Superior Court told The Post that Hamilton “never forgot the everyday people, and he mentored other professionals, lawyers and judges to live a life of service.”
He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, where he earned degrees in mathematics and law. After serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, he moved to the Washington area in 1961. He worked in the Justice Department’s civil division until he was appointed to the D.C. Superior Court in 1970, where he worked his way up to the chief judge position, The Post reported. He also taught as an adjunct professor at the American University’s Washington College of Law.
As reported by The Post, survivors include his wife of 55 years, Virginia David Hamilton of Brookeville; nine children, Alexandra Evanzz of Ashton; Steven Hamilton of Santa Clara, Calif.; James Hamilton of Bowie; Eric Hamilton and David Hamilton, both of Tampa; Rachael Hamilton of Columbia; Jeremiah Hamilton of Silver Spring; Michael Hamilton of Brookeville; and Marcus Hamilton of Wheaton; 15 grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.
The full obituary from The Washington Post is available here.