Dr. Fitzhugh Nicholson Hamrick, a local dentist, faculty member and administrator with MUSC's College of Dental Medicine, left behind a legacy that was full of praise and admiration from his family, friends and colleagues.
NAME: Fitzhugh Nicholson Hamrick
BORN: April 13, 1926
DIED: May 23, 2014
military Service: Navy dentist 1948-52
SURVIVED BY: Wife, Nancy Hart Miller Hamrick; daughters, Hart Hamrick Deal (Jeff), Margery Hamrick Walters (Peter) and Druid Hamrick Joyner (Sam); son Fitz Hamrick (Monica); 13 grandchildren; and 5 great-grandchildren.
DENTISTRY HABIT: "He would wait until your mouth was full of equipment to talk about anything that required an answer," said friend, CSO associate and patient James Goldsmith.
His life was described as one of generosity, integrity, hospitality, encouragement, culture and humility.
He was born April 13, 1926, in Fountain Inn to Clarence T. and Myrtle H. Hamrick. The family moved to Charleston when he was 6 weeks old. Hamrick never moved away from the Holy City and died May 23 at his home. He was 88.
Although the youngest of four, Hamrick was considered a leader among his family, according to his daughter, Margery Hamrick Walters. His relationship with his parents, sister and two brothers remained strong over the years and they were very close.
As a father of four, Hamrick led by example. His wife, Nancy Hart Miller Hamrick admired him because he set such high standards for himself and his family, a thought echoed by his daughter, Druid Hamrick Joyner. "He had a strong sense of what was right."
Nancy Hamrick was proud to be his wife. He insisted that their children treat them and each other with respect and kindness.
"As a father, the thing he did that was the most special to me was to love my mother so well," Druid recalled.
"He worked so hard as a dentist and as a dental school faculty member and (I) loved that he wanted (me) to be a part of everything he did, to do it together," Nancy said. "From (our) family, to the church, to his dental practice and teaching, to (our) involvement in the symphony and concert association, he included (me) and I loved that (we) did things together."
Hamrick's adoration was also clear to daughter Hart Hamrick Deal. "I never doubted his fierce love for me and my family. ... My dad loved us well. And when he loved us well, that was multiplied for his grandchildren and exploded with his great-grandchildren."
Host with the most
Nancy characterized Hamrick by his "hospitality and generous spirit."
When he met new people, "he would always tell them they must come eat at their house or stay with them," she said. "If he felt like someone had a need, he would always try to see how he could help them or meet the need."
"Our house had a revolving door on it," Margery remembered. "College students, medical university students, friends and family were constantly over. ... Our home was one where many people felt welcomed as a member of the family."
It was common for Hamrick to invite people over almost every Sunday after church, Margery said. Citadel cadets would "take off the very hot Citadel uniform jacket and crash in our guest room, living room or family room" and they would "run them back to school on the way to evening church service on Sunday night."
He built his family up with positivity. After an elementary school assembly where her older sister received all of the accolades, Margery felt left out, but remembers the consoling advice that her father gave her: "They don't give awards for the things you are really good at: loving people, caring for others and looking out for the down-and-outer."
According to Dr. Mark Barry, associate dean of clinics with MUSC's College of Dental Medicine, Hamrick was a strong supporter of his career when Hamrick was the associate dean for academics and student affairs.
"He is responsible for me being at MUSC ... and was instrumental in getting me the job as a faculty member in 1993. I credit him for bringing me to the medical university," Barry said.
Fine arts enthusiast
Hamrick had more than a general appreciation for the local culture. He was the president of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra Association and the Charleston Concert Association.
"He was a wonderful musician, and played the piano and sang beautifully," said Druid. He had considered music as a vocation but his father talked him out of it. He "talked to him at length about how hard it would be to support a family as a full-time musician," she said.
Music "was always one of the things he loved most in life," Druid said. He insisted that his children take piano lessons in grades K-12 and encouraged a love of music and the arts.
In 1968, Hamrick made it his mission to promote the first local performance of "Porgy and Bess," by George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. There was a stipulation, though, per the Gershwin family, that the audiences be fully integrated, which was not the local practice at the time.
According to Druid, Hamrick met with the governor, the mayor and the Gershwin family, and promised that the audience would be completely integrated. He was involved in the audition process and attended every rehearsal, according to his obituary. The show ran for over two weeks in 1970 and was sold out for almost every performance at the Gaillard.
"My father always hoped that it, in some way, began the healing and growth that needed to happen in the Charleston community," Druid said. "At the time, I didn't know what a big thing it was, but I look back and see what it meant."
The Charleston Symphony was a community orchestra at the time and played all of the performances, said James Goldsmith, a fellow symphony and concert association board member and friend of Hamrick. "There was a special spirit to this production that was lacking in many professional presentations," he said.
A man of faith
"The whole idea of the nature of a Heavenly Father was fleshed out for me in the way that my dad cared for me and loved me just the way I was," Hart recalled.
"He had a very strong Christian faith and the church was a part of everything in our lives" said Druid. "We talked about our faith in our home and we saw it lived out in him. ... It was the foundation of how he lived."
Dr. Barry also remembered Hamrick as "a faithful Christian man. He did walk the walk."
"You don't see people like Dr. Hamrick anymore," Barry said. "He was a tried and true man of his word. If he said something, you could bank on it."
His wife, Nancy, reflected on how they would talk about the first verse of Proverbs 22. Throughout all aspects of his life, Dr. Fitzhugh Nicholson Hamrick lived up to it: "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."
Reach Liz Foster at 937-5582 or lfoster@postand courier.com.