A Biographical Sketch of Pastor Curley Hamilton
On September 6, 1919, in Walls, Mississippi, a baby boy was born to Mr. James Edward "Bootsy" Hamilton and Mrs. Annie Mae "Sister" Hoke Hamilton. They named him CURLEY after his uncle. He was the oldest of fifteen children. They did not know then that this little baby would grow up to become a leader among men and a father figure to many. He was destined to become "A MAN WITH A VISION.''
He has always been a hard worker, but as a child Young Hamilton enjoyed regular boyish mischief. He enjoyed going to church on Sunday and listening to the preacher because on Monday a chicken "had to" die. He would gather his siblings (who served as the choir) and stage a funeral where he had to "preach" over the dead chicken. This playful preaching went on for years. Little did the Hamiltons know then that young Curley would later be called by God to preach His Word.
Curley attended The McKay School in Walls, until, at the age of fourteen, he left home to seek gainful employment. He went to Blytheville, Arkansas where he did "day work" as a farm operator. At the age of seventeen, he became the caretaker of 250 acres of land with mules, a cultivator and tractors.
During the "high water of 1937", Curley moved to Memphis to live with an older brother (from an earlier union), Jesse. Jesse worked for State Tire and Oil Company and Curley obtained employment with the Cutis Thomas Funeral Home (1617 South Lauderdale) where he later became a mortician. Later that year, he met J. O. Patterson, Sr. (who later became the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ). Elder Patterson opened a funeral home at 2167 Chelsea Avenue, which later moved to 2204 Chelsea. It was at the second location that C. Hamilton did general mortician work and drove the funeral car and hearse (1939-40). During this same time, young Brother Hamilton chauffeured Bishop Charles Harrison Mason (founder of the Church of God in Christ) part-time.
After surgery (for a hernia) in 1940, Brother Hamilton was blessed to return to work for Cutis Thomas Funeral Home for a short while. He then went to work at Rubin River's Cleaners on Beale Street.
God led Brother Hamilton to meet Elder Jerry Jones (who later became his pastor at New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ) who introduced him to Mr. William H. Bryce, Sr. From that day to present, the Bryce family has been a vital part in the life of Brother Hamilton. He worked for the Bryces (at 4171 Walnut Grove and later at their paper plant) over thirty years. Mr. and Mrs. William H. Bryce Jr. and their family have remained friends with the Hamiltons down through these many years.
While traveling to and from work on Walnut Grove Road, Brother Curley met young Sister Famie Fields. Friendship led to courtship and, after a reasonable length of time, Brother Hamilton proposed to her. She replied, "If I marry you, you'll have to be saved and a member of my church." He assured her, "That's no problem." After further witnessing and encouragement from Sis. Deborah Mason Patterson (wife of Elder J. O. Patterson, Sr.) and Mother Fannie M. Page (National Evangelist for Church of God in Christ), Brother Hamilton received salvation at the home of Mother Page (1941). ln 1942, he received the baptism of the Holy Ghost at Homeland Church of God in Christ during a revival conducted by Mother Page (under the leadership of Elder J. O. Patterson, Sr.)
On April 24, 1942, at a commissary in West Memphis, Arkansas (while sitting in a car), Brother Curley and Sister Famie were married; however their life together was soon interrupted when Brother Hamilton left to serve his country (army) during WWII. He left Sis. Hamilton (who was then expecting their first child) in the care of Mother Page (in whose home she resided). On December 1, 1942, Brother Hamilton sailed from San Francisco to serve in such places as Hawaii; Wellington, New Zealand (where he spent Christmas); Sydney, Australia; Bombay, India (on a banana boat); the Asian Gulf; Iran; Iraq; and by January 25,1943, was on the Russian border. (His first child, Curlene Faye. was born while he was away-on March 31, 1943.) Exactly two years later, on January 25,1943. he left for Europe, sailed in the Asian Gulf; Red Sea; Suez Canal; Mediterranean Sea; Straits of Israel: Corridors of France; then off ship to convoy into France; Cologne, Germany; the Battle of the Bulge; and Battle of Central Germany.
The Lord so blessed that on V-E day, Brother Hamilton had eighty-four points too many to go into battle, but too few to come home; therefore he had to remain in the Army. On Thanksgiving Day in 1945, he was given an Honorable Discharge and returned to the states on Liberty Ship, which sailed through the Atlantic Ocean to Boston Massachusetts. There he was called out because he had requisitioned some garbage cans that were never paid for consequently, he worked as a cook on the ship and finally was able to go to Indianapolis, lndiana where he was processed out and boarded a train for Memphis.
Upon arrival in Memphis, he went directly to River's Cleaners on Beale Street. (He wanted to "look sharp" when he got home!) Once he finally made it home he was thrilled to see his daughter, Curlene for the first time. She greeted him with, "That's my daddy!" (Sister Hamilton had taught "Miss Curley" this fact through use of his picture.) "Miss Curley" was two and a half years old. Two and a half years later Brother and Sister Hamilton were blessed with another daughter, Sandra Claire
After numerous interviews for jobs, Brother Hamilton accepted the best offer by going to work for the W. H. Bryce family where he worked as their general houseman, chauffeur, and relief cook (for $2-5 a week). Later he went to work at Bryce Packaging Company, where he worked fourteen years as a machine operator. During his association with Mr. Bryce, Sr., Brother Hamilton acquired a wealth of information which enabled him to become a shrewd businessman in his own right. (He listened attentively and thought deeply.) God blessed the Hamiltons to build a six-room duplex on David Street (in Orange Mound) which enabled them to move from public housing (The Foote Homes) to a home of their own. To God be the Glory!
In 1946, Brother Hamilton became a member of New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ where Elder Jerry Jones was his beloved pastor. Elder Jones recognized Brother Hamilton's administrative abilities and talents by appointing him to serve as a Sunday School teacher, deacon, trustee, vice-president, and (later) president of the Y.P.W.W (Young People's Willing Workers Auxiliary) for thirteen years. During this time of fervently seeking the Lord through fasting and prayer, the presence of the Holy Ghost was manifested by a long period of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gave utterance. This experience convinced this young saint of the authenticity of the power and presence of the Holy Ghost!
In 1953, Brother Hamilton was called (by God) to the ministry. He was later appointed to serve as the district president for the District of Love #3 under the leadership of Superintendent R. C. McNeal with Missionary Mary Holman as his district missionary. He served in this capacity for thirteen years. In the spring of 1956, Elder Hamilton answered God's call to evangelize in the North Memphis area and the rest is history.
Elder Hamilton started a Prayer Meeting in the home of Sister Brady Neal at 605 Life Street with only Sister Hamilton, the late Missionary Briggs, and his two daughters as helpers. After six months they moved to 556 Wells Street, the home of Sister Atkins. With Sister Atkins, as a member, they later moved to 559 Wells, the home of Brother and Sister Holman. In the spring of 1957, the church moved to an old burned-out cleaning store on Wells Street, between Tully and Manassas Streets. (Sister Hamilton gave her husband the $25 needed for rent from her grocery money.) It was at this location that Missionary Mary Holman and Sister Ella Mae Jones sponsored a "Sixty-Six Books of the Bible Program" to initiate the church's first Building Fund. Followers then included Mother Lennie Johnson, her daughter (Mrs. Hartis Virginia Stewart) and her grandson (Gardner Stewart, Jr.), Sister Lee and her family and Brother L. C. and Sister Willie B. Brewer and their family.
In the fall of 1957, the church moved to 618 Marble Street (into a building known as "The Little Fish House") where it remained until June 1960. Additions to the membership included Sister Wilson, Elder William Pratcher, Elder Morris Edmunds (Sunday School Superintendent), Sister Lillie Bell Newsom (Usher), Brother Davis Shoemaker, Missionary Lucille Abernathy (guitarist), Brother Earl and Sister Ora Robinson and their family. During that time, the church purchased a little wooden house at 918 North Seventh Street (the present location) for a down payment of $300. Part of this down payment came from the pastor and wife's first Appreciation Day service for which $137 was raised by Mother Lennie Johnson and her daughter, "Baby" (Mrs. Hartis Virginia Stewart). The pastor gave it back to the church. In 1961, the Lord led Elder Hamilton to have a revival conducted by the late Mother Emma Johnson. About thirty souls were added to the church including Brother Harry Jackson, Sister Katherine Barnett and family, Brother L. C. and Sister Shirley Reid and family, Sister Dorothy Nelson and family, and Sister Bemice Wells (who shared her piano talents with young Sandra Hamilton which enabled her to serve as church pianist for many years.) When Mother Johnson conducted the 1962 revival new members included Sister Linnie Horne (who later married Brother James Neely), Sister Fannie Jackson and (from Pentecostal Temple) K.C. and Sister Mary Newsom and her son, Brother James W. Neely. Later came Sister Evelyn Anderson, Sister Sadie Brown and family, Sister Thomas and family, Mother Hattie Hodge, Sister Wilson, Sister Beulah Poindexter, Sister Willie Nathaniel and family, and Sister Lynn Rentie (now) and siblings.
Elder Curley Hamilton's vision was coming to fruition by the Grace of God. In 1962, the interior of the church house was renovated into an auditorium with two rest rooms. The first attempt was met with difficulty; the electricity went out and had to be re-wired. Elder Hamilton did it himself using advice from a foreman on his job. When the Pastor's Anniversary Day was observed he received $1,600, but humbly gave it back to the church for its renovations. God truly set His approval on the improvements. He met every need.
The renovation of the church building was truly a miracle of God. For instance, during the renovation, the sidewalk and center walk in front of the church were already in the exact places they needed to be, so no changes were needed for them. On July 10, 1968, the house next to the church was purchased (for expansion purposes). This time Elder Hamilton donated the $2,800 that he was given during his Appreciation Day service for this purchase. In 1969, a loan for $15,000 was obtained from First National Bank for expansion. Since this amount was not enough, the pastor donated his next Appreciation Day offering ($2,800) to the church also.
Many obstacles occurred, but Elder Hamilton persevered and kept the faith. The city examiner refused to approve the work that had been done, but God sent Elder Clarence Randle and Elder Billy Haley to bid on the project. Even though they lost money doing it, they worked until they completed the job. The mystery of how God blessed the construction yet remains. When there were problems applying a new roof, once again Elder Hamilton did the actual work himself. While Pastor Hamilton continued to work untiringly on the building and expansion of Life Church, he continued to work in the district. During the Worker's Meeting of 1970, he was appointed superintendent of the Zion Temple District (which Bishop J.O. Patterson, Sr. affectionately called "The Love District") which included seven churches. The district grew: six more churches were added. Secretary Dorothy Motley later became the District Missionary, Elder Clarence Randle, District Chairman and Elder Readus C. Smith, Public Relations and finance man. A great rapport existed among the workers and the district grew to thirteen churches. Superintendent Hamilton later appointed pastors in the district: Elder Readus C. Smith to Rosemark C.O.G.I.C.; Elder James Hughes to Ford Temple C.O.G.I.C. in Collierville; Elder Elijah Dillard to Paradise C.O.G.I.C. in Bridgewater; Elder Calhoun to Paradise C.O.G.I.C. in Brunswick, TN, and Elder Willie Price appointed pastor to Mason, TN C.O.G.I.C., also
After serving approximately fourteen years as Superintendent of the Zion Temple District, Elder Hamilton resigned to donate more time to his congregation. Then in 1989, after the death of his father, Bishop J.O. Patterson, Jr. (currently presides over Headquarters Jurisdiction) asked Elder Hamilton to assume the position of superintendent over District Number Six with six churches. God blessed and the district grew to thirteen churches. Missionary Lutishia Dickson served as the District Missionary. But later after reorganization, Mother Estelle Walker became the District Missionary. The district name was changed to The Tree of Life District in 1991 and Elder Hamilton served as superintendent until 1999 when he resigned to care for his wife, Sister Famie. In addition to Life C.O.G.I.C. the district then included Christ Temple (Elder Herman Gaston), Common People Temple (Elder Joe Love, chairman), Cross Temple (Elder Neal Reeves), Gospel of Deliverance (Elder Curtis Jefferson), Hebrew (Elder Dickerson L.S. Wells, finance chairman), New Chicago (Elder E. E. Dickerson, assistant superintendent), Outreach Vision Ministry (Elder Tony Triplett), Perfect Praise (Elder AIbert Campbell), Power of the Word (Elder Leon Clayton), and Victory in Praise (Elder Dennis Phillips). Elder Clarence Jones served as chaplain, Sister Betty Macklin as general secretary and Sister Carolyn Triplett as correspondence secretary.
Meanwhile, work was progressing at Life Church. The vision continued to unfold. New ministries were established: teaching, prayer, prison, children's, youth, women's, and music ministries.
Yet another expansion program started in 1980 with a $75,000 re-financing done through Tri-State Bank. Collateral for this loan not only included the actual church building, but also the pastor's own home and his personal life insurance policy. The loan was made for twenty years, but God blessed and it was paid in full in 1996. A beautiful mortgage burning service was held. The little frame house was evolved into the beautiful edifice that now stands-with a dazzling steeple, a decorative wrought iron fence, and a brightly lighted parking lot which enhances the Seventh Street Community at night. Directly across the street (908-913 North Seventh Street) is a fenced-in area for additional parking (as we await word from the Lord for its permanent use.) This land was donated to the church by Doctor and Mrs. Eric Theiner. Elder Hamilton envisioned "a church that is warm with love, peace, and togetherness" - and so it is. This is our church motto even today.
Pastor Hamilton believes that the Lord blesses everyone for his giving, love and service to others. He exemplifies this belief through his own generosity and resulting blessings. He is a man who seeks to help anyone whenever he can. He has touched the hearts and minds of many people through the preached Word of God and his God-given wisdom about life. Elder Hamilton often remembers yesteryear's when members came to church pushing baby strollers, walking through mud, and getting warm by small gas heaters. God has blessed and now there are many cars on well-paved lots. The members have good jobs and some own homes. To God be the Glory for all He has done!
Down through the years, our January revival has been conducted by Pastor Hamilton himself. He uses this time to teach the members how to go about witnessing and teaching others about the goodness of the Lord. In recent years, he has been assisted by our very capable staff of associate ministers. This year (2002), our theme is "In all things give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning You" (I Thessalonians 1:l8). This scripture came to him once he awoke in the middle of the night.
Even now, at the age of eighty-three, Pastor Hamilton continues to teach the Word of God fervently. He believes that we must have the Holy Ghost. He teaches us how to live in everyday life with love for each other and a willingness to help each other - if one is in need, we are to run under him with love, spend our money wisely ("Don't spend every penny you make!"), as we always acknowledge and love God and give Him the first fruits.
Over the past years, Pastor Hamilton has received many awards of honor, certificates, and plaques attesting to his impeccable character and diligent labor. These were presented by govenors, senators, congressmen, mayors, councilmen, West Tennessee Dept. of Corrections, church jurisdictions, districts, Caldwell Elementary School (our school adoptee) etc. In 1999, Pastor Hamilton was honored as "Man of the Hour" by the Business and Professional Women of Headquarters Jurisdiction of the Church of God in Christ at the luncheon that was held in his honor. He was also acknowledged as the "Pastor of the Century" by us (Life C.O.G.I.C.) and "Father/Husband of a Lifetime" by his wife and children.
Elder Curley Hamilton is an anointed man of God who serves us well as pastor/advisor. He has influenced the lives of all who have been blessed to know him. He is known for his many acts of kindness, good deeds, and unusual generosity. As a pastor, he has taken us to new horizons in Christ. He is a man of faith, love, and compassion. He exemplifies unwavering courage in both the ministry and his everyday life, despite the many hardships he has endured. We, the members of Life C.O.G.I.C. family, esteem him highly for "A MAN being a great leader, and a godly man-filled with the Holy Ghost and wisdom; truly, WITH A VISION." We believe he is a great leader who was called, appointed and anointed by God.
Pastor Hamilton is a "family man": he dearly loves his wife of sixty years, Famie; their children: Curlene Faye Collins, Carl L. Collins, II, and Sandra Claire Hamilton; and their only grandson, Attorney Carl L. Collins, III. Elder Curley Harnilton is also the head of their extended family which includes his brothers Jesse Hamilton, deceased; Homer Hamilton, Sr.; John Edward Hamilton, deceased; and Clarence Hamilton and their wives, sisters: Mrs. Cloveice Exum; Mrs. Clevester Robinson, deceased; Mrs. Annie Mae Baskerville; Mrs. Doris Nickerson; and Mrs. Josie Stewart and their husbands; nieces; nephews; cousins and Sister Hamilton's sister, Mrs. Alice Scott. Pastor and Sister Hamilton have many god children whom they adore.
Written by Linnie Neely Edited by Sandra C. Hamilton
Note: If you'd like to hear the entire interview that was done with Pastor Hamilton on June 15, 2002 by Sister Emma Clayton and Sister Linnie Neely, please request an audio cassette tape by calling (901-523-9272) or write the Life C.O.G.I.C., P.O. Box 140546, Memphis,Tennessee 38114.