News & Announcements

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Remembers Judge Clyde H. Hamilton

September 08, 2020
Judge Clyde H. Hamilton

The Honorable Clyde Henry Hamilton died Wednesday, September 2, 2020, in Columbia, South Carolina, at the age of 86. 

Judge Hamilton was born February 8, 1934, in Edgefield, S.C.  He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Wofford College in 1956, majoring in chemistry, with minors in math and physics.  

He served as a commissioned officer in the United States Army Security Agency from 1956 to 1958, then served as a captain in the Army Reserve through 1962. 

During a February 1958 meeting regarding GW Law’s evening program, the dean advised Judge Hamilton that classes were starting in 45 minutes—Hamilton enrolled immediately. Judge Hamilton received a J.D. degree with honors from the George Washington University National Law Center in 1961, where he served as a member of the Law Review. 

Judge Hamilton practiced for 20 years with Butler, Means, Evins & Browne, a Spartanburg, S.C., firm of about 15 lawyers through which he engaged in a combination of insurance defense and transactional work.  He was a longtime member of the South Carolina Bar. 

“I really don’t think I had any career goals while I was in law school. Certainly, becoming a federal judge was the farthest thing from my thoughts,” Hamilton recalled in a 2006 interview. In early 1981, Judge Hamilton declined an opportunity to be nominated as the U.S. attorney for the District of South Carolina. Six months later, Senator Strom Thurmond expressed an interest in adding Hamilton to the federal bench. President Ronald Reagan officially appointed Judge Hamilton to the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina on December 1, 1981. He remained on the Court for almost a decade before President George H.W. Bush elevated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit on July 22, 1991. Judge Hamilton assumed senior status on November 30, 1999.  He remained active on the Court until the time of his death.

Judge Hamilton was a founding member and past president of the John Belton O’Neall American Inn of Court at Columbia, South Carolina. In 1999, Governor David Beasley presented Judge Hamilton with the Order of the Palmetto Award, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, awarded to citizens of the state to recognize extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance. 

Judge Hamilton is remembered by the judges of the Fourth Circuit as a consummate appellate jurist and a colleague of exceptional grace and civility.

In the words of Chief Judge Roger L. Gregory, “Judge Hamilton was the consummate appellate jurist. At oral argument he was always prepared, patient, and precise, and his written opinions were clear, concise, and cogent. We will miss his wise counsel.”

Circuit Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III remembered Judge Hamilton this way: “Clyde showed perfect civility, exceptional grace, and all those qualities that go into making a gentleman. He treated all around him with consummate respect, and he earned the reputation of being meticulously prepared for every single case. He kept a cool head and measured voice in an often hot-tempered age, and he will be missed.”

As recalled by Circuit Judge Albert Diaz, “Judge Hamilton had been a senior judge for some time before I joined the court, but I will always be grateful for the kindness and courtesy that he showed me as a colleague.  He took his oath of office seriously, and rendered distinguished service to his country as a federal judge.  May he rest in peace.”

The obituary for Judge Hamilton, published in The State on Sep. 6, 2020, is available at this link: