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WILLIAM HAMILTON

Born: June 2, 1939
Died: April 8, 2016

William Hamilton was born in Palo Alto, California, son of Alexander Hamilton and Ellen Truesdale Ballantine Hamilton. He grew up on the family farm in St. Helena, Napa Valley, California. He prepared for Yale - or was it for his career lampooning the comfortable - at Andover.

At Yale Bill (as he was then known or "Wm." as he signed his cartoons) was a member of Trumbull, The Elizabethan Club, Fence Club, and Skull and Bones. He was on the Yale Record which published his cartoons. He majored in English. Following graduation he served two years in the Army stationed in Alaska.

He was a novelist, a playwright, a satirist, and simply the paramount cartoonist of our generation. His sly and witty cartoons have enlivened our class Reunion Books, furnished logos for our gatherings, and graced the pages of The New Yorker, Newsweek, New York Observer, Town & Country and other publications.

As Robert Mankoff, cartoon editor of The New Yorker, wrote, "When someone as witty and clever as William Hamilton passes, you feel the obligation to come up with something commensurately witty to commemorate those great cartoons. I'd rather let some of his best work do that." And so will your scribe: see Mankoff's selections published by The New Yorker, April 10, 2016 (click here) - or the many in our Class Books.

For his own entertaining, amusing and self-deprecating story of his life, read again his essay in our 50th Reunion Book, "An Artist's Progress" at pages 52-58.

Hamilton's novels include: The Love of Rich Women, The Charlatan, and The Lap of Luxury. His plays are: Save Grand Central, Plymouth Rock, Happy Landings, Interior Decoration, and White Chocolate. His cartoon collections are: Antisocial Register, Terribly Nice People, Husbands Wives and Live Togethers, and Voodoo Economics.

He told the New York Times in 1988 that his fascination with high society came from "being near money, but far enough that I couldn't quite get my fingers around it."

Hamilton died in an auto accident on April 8, 2016, on a rural road near his farm in Lexington, Kentucky.

His first two marriages ended in divorce. He leaves his third wife, Lucy Young Boutin, whom he married in 2003, his daughter Alexandra, his son Gilliam, his sister Diane Stockton, his brother Alexander and two grandchildren.

Beyond his publications and unknown to all but a very few, there exists a hidden work of Hamilton art created by him in 1959 and not seen since. Classmate Clyde Holt tells the story: "At the end of Freshman year word came down that rooms in Lawrence were all to be repainted over the summer. As I recall it, we were for some reason given a choice of color. I cannot imagine why as we would be moving on to the colleges and never see the rooms again. We all saw this as a chance, however trifling, to have some small effect on those who would come after. Bill had a grander vision. He covered one entire wall, about 14 feet wide by 8 feet high, with a spectacular line drawing, a mural so splendid that everyone was sure Yale would have the wisdom to preserve it. We were wrong. Mother Yale came in and sloshed paint over the whole thing."

If the Ghent altarpiece or the walls of Pompeii can be restored, perhaps the Hamilton mural of 183 Lawrence will also be restored some day and transferred to the Yale Art Gallery where it belongs.

Clyde Holt and John Marr supplied recollections and stories for this essay. Your scribe regrets that some could not be publicized.




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