[UUA-L:383] Obituary: Henry Hampton, filmmaker and former UUA staff member
dweiner at uua.org
Mon Nov 23 16:02:54 EST 1998
We are sad to report the death on Sunday, Nov. 22 of Henry Hampton,
renowned producer whose television documentary "Eyes on the Prize"
set, according to the Boston Globe, "the standard for nonfiction
accounts of the civil rights movement." Hampton, who was 58, was
founder and principal of the production company, Blackside,
Inc., based in Boston.
Robert Hohler, who headed the Unitarian Laymen's League in the
1960's and went on to become chairman of the Civil Rights Project,
the non-profit affiliate of Hampton's Blackside, Inc. said,
"(Hampton)...had a profound influence on the way we tell the story of
America and the struggle to reach equity, justice, and opportunity
Helene Atwan, Director of Beacon Press, said, "All of us who had the
honor and joy to know Henry cherished his friendship; his keen
intelligence, his unwavering support, [and] his priceless sense of
humor made us love him. He will be remembered for his many
contributions to documentary and social history; we will remember him
for his generosity to this press and to each of us as individuals."
Hampton, who at the time of his death was serving as a member of the
Advisory Board of Beacon Press, had worked for the Unitarian
Universalist Association from 1963 to 1968, rising to the position
of Director of Information. During that time, Hampton led the UUA
Board in their response to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s call for
clerical leaders to come to Selma to participate in the Selma to
Montgomery civil rights march of 1965.
In 1968, he traveled with UUA President Dana McLean Greeley on a
journey of religious leaders to India, South Vietnam, and Japan to
promote world understanding and peace. It was, said Robert Hohler, "
A formative trip for Henry. We had all experienced the power of
Selma and the civil rights movement, and of emerging black
empowerment...Henry went around the world, and saw the power of
emerging countries. In all of these, what he detected was a similar
process ... movements fueled by individual people. ... In a
marvelous way, Henry was able to synthesize the UU commitment to
individuality with the emerging political awareness in this country
and around the world, into an idea for a company [Blackside, Inc.]
that would be devoted to charting, following and recording the
attempts of individuals to change society.
Hohler continued, " Henry said that when he walked across the Edmund
Pettus Bridge in Selma, the idea of the documentary ["Eyes on the
Prize"] crystalized, because he saw the bravery and commitment and
dedication of ordinary citizens working for equity and justice. Why
not create a company that had that at its heart?, Hampton thought...
His value system was refined and clarified by his UU experience,
and I think UUs can proudly claim him as part of this wonderful
At the time of his death, Hampton was working on several projects,
including "I'll Make Me a World: A Century of African-American
Arts, Artists and Communities," to be released next year, and "The
African-American Religious Experience." In addition, he was
scheduled to write the introduction to a new book to be published by
the UUA's Skinner House entitled, "Eighteen Days in Selma," a
personal account of the Selma to Montgomery march by Rev. Richard
Leonard, and edited by Hampton's close friend, Rev. Jack Mendelsohn.
Henry Hampton leaves two sisters, Dr. Veva Zimmerman and Judi
Hampton, both of New York City; a brother-in-law, David Zimmerman of
New York City; and two nephews, Tobias Zimmerman of Washington, D.C.
and Jacob Zimmerman of Cambridge. Funeral arrangements were
incomplete at press time.
Director of Electronic Communication
Unitarian Universalist Association
617-742-2100 x 104 FAX: 617-367-3237
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