Dr. Wylie Cicero Hamrick proclaimed to the crowd that he was familiar with the uses of a spade, having been reared on a farm. With that, he spat on his hands, rubbed his palms together, seized the handle, and heaved a full load of dirt to ceremoniously break ground for the Hamrick Hall of Science in April of 1924.
This account, written by late Limestone Professor Emeritus Dr. Bobby Moss in the historical and photographic narrative Toward the Light, establishes both a literal and figurative foundation for the influence the Hamrick family has had on Limestone University for more than a century. The determined and abundant support of higher education is a family heritage, stretching from Dr. Hamrick to his two sons, three daughters, two grandsons, three granddaughters, four great grandsons and four great granddaughters, all of whom have devoted their time, effort, money, and spirit to the institution. There is hardly a stone or student on the Limestone campus that has not been touched by the leadership and generosity of the Hamricks.
Dr. Hamrick, a non-practicing physician, local textile executive, and public servant, began his legacy in 1899 when he was elected to the Limestone College Board of Trustees. Though engaged in ventures in several mills, agriculture, and local and state politics, Dr. Hamrick was never too busy to devote his time and energy to the affairs of the College.
His most noted and visible contribution was the Hamrick Hall of Science, construction of which was completed in 1925. The facility, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, still stands as a cornerstone of academics at Limestone. Dr. Hamrick also gave a significant boost to the College’s endowment fund with a $25,000 contribution in 1927.
However, Dr. Hamrick’s contribution went beyond that of capital and monetary significance. As a member of the Board of Trustees for 36 years and chair for 14, he was an important leader and advisor to the College.
“No college has a more helpful and loyal friend than Dr. Hamrick has proved to be during more than three decades,” Limestone President Dr. R.C. Granberry said at a dinner honoring Dr. Hamrick in 1935. “Those of us who are engaged in the administrative phase of the College have come to rely upon his superior judgment.”
Dr. Hamrick’s family has relied on his judgment as well, particularly regarding his support of Limestone.
“There’s no doubt that Dr. Hamrick had a significant influence on Limestone and his descendants,” said Wylie L. Hamrick, Dr. Hamrick’s grandson who would go on to be a life member of Limestone’s Board of Trustees. “(His) participation and interest in the College have inspired other family members.”
Waite Carlisle Hamrick, Sr. took up his father’s legacy in 1947 as a member of the Board of Trustees, but it was his sister Alma Hamrick Fullerton who made the most significant contributions of Dr. Hamrick’s children.
At the age of thirteen, Alma was a student in the Music Department at Limestone before graduating from Brenau College in Gainesville, Georgia. When she married William B. Fullerton in 1924, President Granberry performed the wedding ceremony at the Hamrick home. In 1962, Alma returned the favor with the largest gift in the 117-year history of the College. Through the Alma Foundation, she offered a challenge gift of $250,000 to build a fine arts auditorium on the College campus.
Alma’s nephews John and Waite, Jr., both of whom were Limestone trustees at the time, were responsible for working with Mrs. Fullerton.
“John (Hamrick) had a major role in the size of the donation,” Wylie L. Hamrick explained. “And she was interested in Limestone because of her father.”
While John influenced the size of the challenge gift, his brother Waite, Jr. led the drive to match the funds. That fundraising effort in 1962 exceeded the challenge mark by $55,500.
Fullerton Auditorium was constructed in 1964 in memory of Alma’s late husband, William B. Fullerton, and has become the central location for important functions such as convocation, commencement, and music and theatre performances. That same year, Alma was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters.
The Foundation’s challenge gift also set a precedent that has been consistent over the past six decades. The Hamrick Mills Foundation, as it is known today, as well as the Fullerton Foundation, have been an integral part of many of Limestone’s capital campaigns.
John Hamrick equaled his grandfather as the longest serving, and perhaps most influential, board member in the College’s history. Elected to the board in 1951, the President of Hamrick Mills served until 1987 with two terms as the chair. In 1966, John directed the affairs of the College after the death of President Dr. A.J. Eastwood. John was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Business Administration in 1974 and named a life trustee in 1984.
Since John’s death in 2005, Limestone has benefitted from gifts provided by the John Hamrick Donor Advised Fund.
Waite, Jr. served on the Board of Trustees from 1956 until 1968. In addition to his fundraising efforts toward Fullerton Auditorium, he chaired a campaign in 1957 that raised $278,000. This local business and civic leader supported the College on many levels through scholarship funds, the Limestone Fund, and capital campaigns. He donated land to the College, including the location of the Physical Education Center that opened in 2005. He was also instrumental in the building of the Timken Center.
Waite, Jr., a former mayor and city council member of Gaffney, was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Public Service from the College in 1991.
Under the two brothers’ leadership on the board, Limestone erected seven new facilities on campus.
In 1980, Wylie L. Hamrick was elected to the Limestone Board of Trustees. In 1982, he chaired the Decade of Confidence Capital Campaign and served as board chair in 1983-84.
Wylie had a major role in the two renovation projects of the Hamrick Hall of Science. Wylie and his late wife Frances made a generous contribution to change the building’s lecture hall into a state-of-the-art multimedia classroom, which is named in their honor. In 2001, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Public Service.
As part of the restoration of the Winnie Davis Hall of History that was completed in 2010, the Hamrick Mills Foundation also provided a financial gift to dedicate a garden in Wylie’s honor.
Since Wylie’s death in 2012, annual gifts to Limestone have continued from the Wylie Hamrick Family Charitable Fund.
A fourth generation began service on the board in 1991 when Charles Fullerton Hamrick II, a son of John, was elected. During his two terms, in which he served as vice-chair and chair of the Finance Committee, the College began experiencing growth in enrollment and financial stability that continues today.
Wylie’s son Lyman joined the board in 2005 and served as chairman. He helped lead the effort to renovate Winnie Davis Hall of History. Several gifts from various Hamrick family members went toward the Winnie Davis Hall restoration.
A gift from the late John Martin Hamrick in memory of his wife Mary Elizabeth (Mary Lib) Hartzog Hamrick ’35, provided the funds to renew Limestone Springs. The springs emerge from a fountain which is enclosed by bricks. There are also benches on which visitors can enjoy the historic landmark. The park and fountain were rededicated in 2007.
In 2009, “Hamrick Plaza” vastly improved the look of Limestone’s front campus as 7,500 brick and cast stone pavers were installed thanks to a donation from Marguerite (Margie) Hamrick in honor of her husband Charles and nephew Charles Hamrick, II.
Wardlaw Hamrick, also a son of Wylie’s, joined Limestone’s Board of Trustees in 2016.
Lyman and Charles both say supporting Limestone goes hand in hand with supporting Cherokee County.
“I believe Cherokee County and its citizens benefit from Limestone,” explained Lyman, who will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from Limestone at its graduation on December 18, 2021. He will also serve as commencement speaker. He will be the first member of his family to receive an honorary Doctoral degree from Limestone after its name change from Limestone College to Limestone University. That name change took place on July 1, 2020. “The institution improves the lifestyle of all the citizens in the community. I was indoctrinated into that thinking from my father and found that it was true as I got older.”
“I served on the board for several years to be of service any way I could,” said Charles. “I know how important Limestone is to Cherokee County and our community.”