Street takes name of pastor, civil rights leader

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Now written outside Tabernacle Baptist Church is a name that has been imprinted in the hearts of the congregation for five decades.

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Lillian Hamilton, the widow of the Rev. Charles S. Hamilton, is hugged by Brian Prince after receiving a plaque honoring the longtime pastor and civil rights leader. State Rep. Quincy Murphy (right) was among those at Augusta's Tabernacle Baptist.   Corey Perrine/Staff
Corey Perrine/Staff
Lillian Hamilton, the widow of the Rev. Charles S. Hamilton, is hugged by Brian Prince after receiving a plaque honoring the longtime pastor and civil rights leader. State Rep. Quincy Murphy (right) was among those at Augusta's Tabernacle Baptist.

The name was at the front of Augusta's civil rights movement in the 1960s and on the lips of any church member in need years after.

The Rev. Charles S. Hamilton's name now hangs above a street corner outside of his old church as a constant reminder of his work.

Church members changed the name of Harrison Street, along the east side of the church, to C.S. Hamilton Way in honor of the late pastor Saturday.

"It will be more than an address change," Pastor Charles E. Goodman Jr. said. "People won't see a street name. They will see a legacy."

That legacy began at Tabernacle Baptist in 1956, when Hamilton arrived as pastor and newest civil rights advocate. He preached until six months before his death in 1997 at age 70.

Under his watch, Tabernacle Baptist became a meeting place for the local civil rights movement. Hamilton organized marches, rallies and protests, and pushed through the cloud of oppression that hung over a segregated Augusta.

Hamilton was host to the Rev. Martin Luther King in his church three times and became a King scholar after the civil rights leader's death, said Tracy Williams, a member of the street dedication committee.

"He was quite a courageous man when very few people were willing to do it," Williams said. "You can't talk about anything about the history of this church without mentioning Rev. Hamilton. He was the force."

His greatest work, according to his daughter, Rachael, was what he did behind the pulpit.

"His biggest accomplishment was serving God," she said.

Before the sign unveiling, more than 100 people sat in the pews of the church where Hamilton once preached to pay tribute. Local politicians and friends took turns reminding the congregation of how many lives Hamilton touched, and the C.S. Hamilton Male Choir sang his favorite hymn, Through It All .

"Dr. Hamilton touched the city in a profound way and will be a part of this community forever," Augusta Commissioner Corey Johnson said.

With rain pouring outside, the group watched the unveiling of the sign from a video recording and exploded in applause when the white cloth dropped.

The group prayed and gave speeches for more than an hour before stepping out in the rain to see the sign for themselves.

The community needs no reminder of all Hamilton has done, said family friend Elias Burton, but having his name outside their church makes it so no one forgets.

"The street may bear his name, but there's many people he has touched that will bear what he's done for them in their hearts."


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