Lelia Lawrence Hamilton, Obituary


Lelia Lawrence Hamilton, age 96, died on Saturday, March 11, 2023 at Carol Woods Retirement Community in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, of natural causes.

Lelia, known to her friends as Lee, was born on December 12, 1926 in Brooks County, Georgia. She was the second daughter of Reverends William and Lela Lawrence, both African Methodist Episcopal ministers. Her older sister died before Lelia was born. She also had three older half-sisters and two older half-brothers from her father’s prior marriages.

Lelia graduated from Cook County Training School at 15 years old, attended Morris Brown College and graduated from Fort Valley State University in 1946 where she received her B.S. in Vocational Home Economics

In 1951 she joined the U.S. Air Force, planning to go back to school to become a dietitian after she was commissioned, but instead she was sent to Air Craft Controllers’ School, graduating in 1952. She was one of the first six women in that field which was traditionally held by men, and served as an air traffic controller. It was a challenging position in which her competence and expertise were often questioned because she was a woman. While in the Air Force she met Eugene Hamilton who was also an Air Force officer and they married in 1955.

Lelia left military service in 1955 and lived with Eugene in Rome, NY where Lelia taught school, and in Westhampton Beach, NY where they built a family home and raised their growing family. After divorcing in 1966, Lelia returned to teaching elementary school students in Greenport and Riverhead, New York, while raising five children. She obtained a M.S. in Elementary Education in 1975 from Long Island University. Upon her retirement from teaching in 1991 she travelled widely and spent many winters in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. In 2009 she moved to Carol Woods Retirement Community, Chapel Hill, NC.

Her essential nature was courageous, adventurous, curious, and fun-loving. She also had a sympathetic ear for the people she met and befriended. She could talk to anyone and gave good advice. She was a protective and supportive parent, instilling in her own children and those she taught the value of getting a good education and working hard to achieve goals.

Though raised in the AME church, she became a Roman Catholic around 1966 and was very active in church activities both in New York and North Carolina. She also served on the Board of Directors for New Directions (a resource for Long Island women), the Board of Directors for the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, and as Vice President of the Quiogue Association. She was a past member of various military, education, and civic organizations and a lifelong member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

She is survived by her children, Linda A. Hamilton of Lanham, MD, Carol H. Bodine (Joseph) of Newark, NJ, Jean C. Hamilton (Wayne Miller) of Chapel Hill, NC, Judy L. Hamilton (Stephen Reeves) of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and Eugene M. Hamilton (Petya Slavova) of Quiogue, NY. She is also survived by eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

A memorial service for Lelia is being planned for the summer of 2023 on Long Island. Her ashes will be interred at the Calverton National Cemetery in Calverton, NY.

Memorial donations may be made in her honor to:

Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach
28 Lincoln St
Riverhead, NY 11901


Fort Valley State University
1005 State University Dr.
Fort Valley, GA 31030-4313

As a community service, The Local Reporter publishes obituaries of local residents free of charge. Send to editor@thelocalreporter.press.

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