Tom Hamall remembered as metro force for good

Thomas Hamall

Fayette County and metro Atlanta lost a true friend last week with the passing of Tom Hamall. One of his most recent accomplishments as the co-creator of the ENCORE! Fayette Senior Adult Leadership Program was the culmination of a life of service to the communities where he lived. Always quick with a smile, Hamall saw life and its challenges not as problems, but as possibilities for learning and unity.

Though his life was claimed by cancer on April 29, the life of 77-year-old Thomas K. Hamall was one from which a legacy sprang. Among myriad accomplishments across the nation and in Fayette County, Hamall served as the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s executive vice president from 1974 to 1983, a position equivalent to today’s chamber president.

Most recently, his work in Fayette County led to the idea of forming an organization that would bring the wisdom and experience of seniors into the larger Fayette community. Fayette FACTOR collaborative director Becky Smith was one of those who worked closely with Hamall in the past few years to create ENCORE!

“When I was first introduced to Tom Hamall through a phone conversation in April 2006, I had no idea the impact this gentleman would have on my life. His proposal, creating a Senior Adult Leadership Program, was interesting and fit very well with FACTOR,” said Smith. ”Hundreds of hours went into bringing key community people together to plan, promote and prepare to implement ENCORE! Fayette. Tom laid a foundation for the program that withstood even the test of economic depression. His experiences and wisdom and willingness to use them was the cornerstone of the program.

“When we held our first class in January 2009, Tom went through it as a participant, not as the leader. He endowed me with that distinction, again continuing to build upon a foundation he had so meticulously laid. I will be ever grateful for the lessons learned sitting for hours being taught by example from one of the best. Tom Hamall was a great mentor, teacher and friend. His legacy will live on in the ENCORE program and the two classes of alumni whose lives were touched in such a unique way.”

Also noting Hamall’s local contribution was Development Authority of Peachtree City (DAPC) Chairman Mark Hollums.

“Tom Hamall was indeed a force to be reckoned with. He garnered a wealth of wisdom and experience from all those years serving in diverse communities, especially the years he guided the Metro Chamber in Atlanta during the turbulent and transitional ‘70s,” Hollums said. “When Tom talked about promoting communities and the different service initiatives he worked on, and building business coalitions, it was almost like listening to [renowned physicist] Richard Feynman reminisce about his own life. Tom just knew so many historical figures, and he knew what worked. And he didn’t mind stepping on a few toes either, but he always had a twinkle in his eye. I will never forget how upbeat Tom was too, even in his illness. And it certainly was a rare opportunity and privilege to have served with him. He will be missed.”

Among other local colleagues to speak of Hamall and his impact on Fayette County was ENCORE! Fayette alumni Bev Williams.

“Tom was an inspiration to all he came in contact with. His many pursuits and the creation of ENCORE have touched so many in such a positive way,” Williams said. “I came in contact with Tom in the first ENCORE class in Fayette County and was fortunate enough to have experienced the gift of working with Tom whose vision and leadership has opened many doors in our community. Tom paved the way for me and other volunteers by opening a SCORE small business counseling satellite office in Fayette County. His influence in the community will be felt for many years to come.”

Peachtree City-based Historical Concepts managing partner Todd Strickland, too, spoke of Hamall’s contribution with DAPC and his ability to bring people together.

“It was such an honor to serve on the Development Authority with Tom Hamall. He had a profound affect on our board and really Peachtree City itself during his brief tenure.” Strickland said. “Tom was a force to be reckoned with in regards to bringing meaningful projects to fruition even on a shoestring budget. He was simply determined to make a difference in our community and I believe no one would argue he did indeed do so. Tom was also uniquely talented at forging partnerships with business owners, citizens, elected officials and other civic organizations. These relationships and the spirit of collaboration that Tom established will benefit our city and county for years to come. He will be missed greatly but Tom will always be remembered by those of us who were lucky enough to get to know him.”

Hamall’s leadership skills extended to the field of education. Commenting on those skills was Clayton State University’s Fayette County Director Kevin Demmitt.

“Tom Hamall believed that expanding higher education opportunities in Fayette County was the key to economic development. We met frequently to discuss how Clayton State could serve the needs of everyone from high school students in the dual-enrollment program to seniors pursuing lifelong learning opportunities. We were pleased to be able to hold one of the first ENCORE classes at our Peachtree City location as a first step in reaching out to the seniors in our community,” Demmitt said.

“Tom’s vision for a collaborative, community-supported higher education model is one that we will continue to pursue as we plan for the future. Tom was one of the most affirming and optimistic individuals I have ever known. He believed that everything is possible when you draw on the wealth of human experiences that surround us.”

Yet another local resident, Rotary Club of Peachtree City board member and ENCORE alumni and Steering Committee member Karen Stephens, shared her thoughts on Hamall and his significance to the Fayette County community.

“I knew and worked closely with Tom as part of the Steering Committee in establishing the ENCORE Senior Leadership Training Program. He quickly became my mentor and dear friend,” Stephens said. “Not often do we have the privilege and honor to know and work with men of greatness. Tom was that kind of man. He was a genuine hero in the sense of doing his duty in building better communities. His character, willingness to do whatever it takes, fearlessness, perseverance and devotion to his faith, family and friends were demonstrated in all aspects of his life. He was a visionary bringing forth ideas that were far reaching, but essential in implementing cohesive strategic plans. Tom saw greatness in everyone regardless of their age, race, color, political views, or social status. He always instilled and demonstrated integrity, personal responsibility and accountability. Yes, Tom will be sorely missed, but he has left his mark on the lives he touched. I, for one, am a better person because I knew and loved him.”

Hamall’s passing was also noted in publications such as the Atlanta Business Chronicle. With his leadership as the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s executive vice president from 1974 to 1983, Hamall was remembered by those who served with him as a progressive leader who ushered in the first African-American member and first two African-American chairmen of the Chamber and traveled around the world developing international commerce.

Herman Russell, founder and chairman of the board of H.J. Russell & Company and the Chamber’s 1981 chairman, recalled working side-by-side with Hamall on issues abroad and closer to home.

“He was one of the most progressive chief executives of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. He was the one who really made a very significant move in building trade with foreign countries — Russia, Europe and beyond. He really put Atlanta on the map when it came to international trade,” Russell said. “One of the darker moments in Atlanta, and it happened on my watch as chairman of the Atlanta Chamber, was during the missing and murdered children era. The chamber worked so hard, along with the chief of police and city hall, to help with that. Tom took a very active role.”

And regarding race relations, Russell said, “He was ahead of his time. He saw the big picture during the dark days of Atlanta. I was the first African-American member, and the second African-American chairman. When I was invited to join, Tom was the one who took the leadership and was so supportive of me joining, even when there were some who were not.”

During his extraordinary 40-year career Hamall also served as an International Business Fellow with the London School of Business, publisher of Atlanta Magazine, director of Georgia Institute of Technology’s University Partnerships program, corporate Director of Civic Affairs, Borden Inc., president of the Borden Foundation, Finance Director of the White House Conference of Children and Youth (1970-71), Communications Director and a Fellow at Ohio State University’s Academy for Contemporary Problems and managing partner with Arbor Gate Group consultants.

Hamall served as the general chairman of the 1975 National Leadership Conference in Atlanta, was an incorporator of the National Association of Community Leadership Organizations (now renamed The Community Leadership Association at the Fanning Institute, University of Georgia), initiator and Director of the Columbus (Ohio) Area Leadership Program (CALP) and board member of Leadership Atlanta.

Hamall was a co-creator ENCORE, a prototype senior leadership program organized by the Southeast Volusia County (Florida) Senior Citizens Advisory Council and a founding member, president and board chairman of the Lenbrook Foundation, the funding mechanism for Lenbrook Continuing Care Retirement Communities.

In his 25 years in Peachtree City Hamall was also an organizing member of the Peachtree City Commission on Children and Youth, he organized and implemented the Fayette ‘93 Strategic Planning Program for the Fayette Chamber of Commerce and coordinated the Freeport tax initiative and two school board bond issues.

Tom Hamall is survived by his wife Barbara; daughters Mary Morales of Peachtree City, Eileen Desai of Atlanta, Annette Freeman of Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., Rosemary Martinez of Cordova, Tenn., and Claire Moyer of Taveres, Fla.; son, Kenneth Hamall of Cincinnati, Ohio; and 13 grandchildren. A memorial Mass was said Monday at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Peachtree City.

It is axiomatic in life that the only way to make a difference is to be the difference. Tom Hamall was “the difference.”