Pentecostal Pioneers: George Washington Hamilton
Written for Mary Adele Hamilton
By Lajoyce Martin
He was known as “The Weeping Prophet” even before he accompanied Roy to the electric chair.
A lady whom he pastored reports that he came to the hospital to pray for her, stood silently at her bedside with bowed head, then turned and walked away. On the floor was a pool of tears. She was healed.
But now we are getting ahead of Mary’s story!
Mary Adele Hamilton started a biography of her husband’s life but suffered a stroke before she was able to complete the last three chapters of the book. This is her story, condensed and rephrased.
George Washington Hamilton, the last of eight children, was orphaned soon after his birth on August 14, 1909. Shifted from sister to brother, aunt to uncle, sorely in need of love and guidance, he felt he was a misfit everywhere. George’s oldest brother was murdered, leaving a young widow and two small fatherless children. Not old enough to be heard, George listened in silence as the stabbing was discussed, pro and con. It was the talk of the town. He quietly formed his own verdict and pledged his own method of retaliation. Revenge rankled in him, tormented him!
Night after night, he nourished that resolution and grew bitter. At the trial, when the murderer was not convicted, it became George’s sole responsibility to settle the score. The crime would not go unavenged, regardless of what the law had ruled!
At an early age, George left his home town to make his own way in life. Youth and inexperience forced him into the most common fields of labor. Being alert and physically strong, he found jobs with construction companies, railroad workers, and oil field laborers.
Although he was mentally occupied and away from the scene that constantly reminded him of the offense, the feeling of revenge still simmered underneath. He still had a matter to settle back home–some day. He wasn’t forgetting that! At last, in 1932, George returned to his home town, now in his early twenties. He met some old friends who invited him to a Pentecostal meeting in progress “upstairs in the old feed store building.” A bit reluctant to go, he was surprised to find it entirely different from what he had expected. He was heartily welcomed and treated as a friend!
The next night he went back; he actually wanted to go! It was there again–the friendliness and sincerity. And how those people sang! And what was this portion of Scripture the preacher was reading? Was it really in the Bible? “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
Now who told the minister about his plans of revenge? How did he know? George was deeply stirred and resolved to look more carefully into the matter.
He had heard that a little book was kept in the pulpit with names of those for whom these devoted people were praying. He had an overwhelming desire to see that book, so the following night he mingled among these friendly people, working his way toward the front. He saw the list, with his very own name near the top, and it touched him profoundly.
He went home and began reading his Bible. At two o’clock George’s light was still burning. A few nights later, he was in the altar, and God baptized him with the Holy Ghost. He felt pure, clean, and at peace with God, himself, and everyone! Tears flowed down his cheeks. For the first time in his life, he felt secure, loved, and wanted. Now he had a purpose for living.
That night Brother Frank Martin, assisting Evangelist Powell Sojourner, talked to George about being baptized in water. He had no idea that he meant now–tonight! But being desirous to obey all
Scripture, he assented. Since George had brought no clothing for the occasion, Brother Martin attired him in some of his own blue striped overalls and a work shirt. To a person of less serious attitude, the picture would have been hilarious: five-foot-eight-inch George dressed
in the clothes of a man well over six feet tall. The legs of the overalls were rolled up almost to his knees and the sleeves to the elbows, making him resemble a farmer’s scarecrow. George put it this
way: “I’m sure I must have looked like a rooster with socks on.”
Outward appearance was forgotten. That night a contented young man slept soundly and peacefully in his new-found joy.
But his Pharaoh pursued him! His brother ridiculed, “It won’t last. He’ll be back for more cigarettes and liquor.” His relatives rejected him.
Then George faced the supreme test. As he looked over the congregation one night, observing those who were moved by the Spirit to go to the altar for repentance, he spotted the man who had killed his brother. Here was the man for whom he had carried the torch of revenge for so long! How the devil did his utmost to recapture the freed prisoner! The battle raged. Scalding tears flowed down George’s face as he wrestled with his emotions, praying earnestly to God for help. Victory came. George arose from his seat, made his way to the altar, put his arms around his “enemy,” and prayed with him for his deliverance. Born in George that night was desire to help fallen humanity find peace with God.
Following this experience, serious-minded George spent long hours in the woods alone, seeking God. He understood that God was dealing with him for a special work, and he desperately cried to God that he
might find a way to satisfy the desire to serve which burned in his heart like a flame. He purchased an inexpensive guitar, and with grim determination, practiced and prayed until he mastered at least the fundamentals of the instrument. He began attending nearby revivals, assisting with the music, and singing in such sincere humility that his help was welcomed everywhere.
In March of 1934, a pastor invited George to help in a revival in Dublin, Texas. The evangelist had invited Mary Adele Rhodes along to assist with singing, music, and altar work. They met the first night of the revival. It was not love at first sight, but a romance slowly budded. What attracted the weeping, travailing George to the laughing, light-hearted Mary, no one knew. They were married on Saturday night, September 8, 1934. George borrowed a car and ten dollars to come for Mary, so they started their marriage “deeply in debt.”
In November, Mary contacted typhoid fever. Perhaps it was her illness that started the fear in George’s heart. For a long time, he had felt his call to preach, but had never mentioned it. A guilty feeling of disobedience plagued him. Uncle John Mounce, a deacon in the pastorless Walnut Springs church, asked George to preach one Tuesday night. Mary was abed with the typhoid fever, and when George returned from service that night, he said, “Guess who preached tonight!” After several missed guesses, he told Mary that he had preached, concluding, “I told them God had called me to preach.”
During all of 1935, the couple offered themselves as “helpers” in gospel meetings, anywhere, anytime. They refer to this as their “schooling.” In the spring of 1936, George borrowed twenty-five dollars from Mr. Warren, a farmer friend near Gorman, to buy a 1927 Model T Ford, promising to return in the fall and work out the debt in the peanut harvest. By fall, George (nicknamed “Dutch” by all his friends) had launched into the ministry. But true to his word, he returned to Mr. Warren in the fall. Although he was not a Christian, Mr. Warren raised his hand in dismissal, and said kindly, “No, Dutch, you go right on with your preaching and forget the debt. I don’t want you to stop your work for God.” Years later on December 1, 1957, Brother Hamilton preached Brother John Warren’s funeral and told of this incident. Near Desdemona, Texas, sat a forlorn-looking schoolhouse called Salem. Brother Hamilton located the man with the key and asked permission to use the building for a revival. The man replied kindly, as if afraid of dampening the spirits of this zealous young preacher, “Young man, I will be glad to give you the key to the building. You are welcome to it, but I don’t think anyone will come to hear you preach.” Brother Hamilton left with the key in his pocket, elated! On opening night, a surprisingly large crowd gathered, perhaps rounded up by the sympathetic man with the key. The young couple sang, “That’s Why I Love and Adore Jesus” to the tune of “When You and I Were Young, Maggie.”
Much to Brother Hamilton’s surprise, on the second night of the revival, in walked his brother who had ridiculed him when he received the Holy Ghost. Both brothers wept throughout the service.
One night a teenage boy came to the front with fists clinched. “It’s none of your business that I did those things at the party last night, Preacher,” his eyes flashed belligerently. Brother Hamilton explained to the young man that he had no knowledge of the party, nor what the boy had done; he was only delivering God’s message, as the mailman delivers the mail. The eventful two-week revival was the launching pad for “The Weeping Prophet.”
Brother Arthur Clanton with his violin joined them in their next revival, an outdoor affair with a crude platform, located at a downtown intersection in Iredell, Texas. They used a vacant garage next door as lodging for the workers. Singers and musicians poured in from surrounding churches. Brother Clanton preached one night and Brother Hamilton the next. By the end of the week, all the seats were filled, and cars almost blocked the streets.
Garden vegetables were plentiful, but meat was scarce, so Brother Hamilton approached the Lord about the problem. The group found Brother Hamilton driving down five stakes, with strings attached. “What in the world are you doing?” they asked him.
“Fixing these stakes for the five chickens someone is going to bring tonight,” he calmly replied. Mysteriously, after service five fryers were attached to the stakes. On another occasion, when they needed bread each of them prayed, and as the bread truck rounded the corner at the intersection, a loaf of bread tumbled off and rolled right toward them!
During a revival at Frankel, a small community of seventy-five to one hundred country folk, Brother Hamilton yelled, “Ma–a–a–ry, come here!” There on the clothesline, where she had hung his only three undershirts to dry, were just three sets of straps hanging. It was the work of “Satan,” a mischievous billy goat. He had eaten the undershirts, all but the straps–a serious situation as they had no money for more!
With a great anointing, Brother Hamilton preached on baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, expecting great results as the altar call was made. No one came. Disappointed and discouraged, he went home and to bed. At two o’clock in the morning he was frightfully jarred to consciousness by a pounding on the door and someone yelling, “Get up, Brother Hamilton!” Hearts pounding, the Hamiltons got up hastily to find two loud Model T cars filled with happy, shouting saints who had brought a young couple for baptism. Revival broke loose!
At the close of a fruitful harvest here, the saints asked Brother Hamilton to stay on as pastor, the five men agreeing to try to raise fifty cents each week to support them. However, they failed to meet their pledge more often than they succeeded. The Hamiltons’ son, Jimmy D’Wayne, was born in January of 1937.
Brother Hamilton had made a vow to God to go into virgin territory, and that vow led him to the unreached high plains of Texas. The town was Lamesa, sixty miles south of Lubbock. They were joined by another young couple, Brother and Sister Donald Berry. A visiting evangelist, the Job’s-comforter type, said, “You will never build a church in Lamesa.” But Brother S. G. McClain, pioneering a work in Lubbock, proved to be a constant tower of strength and courage to the younger ministers. Gradually, a humble twenty-four-by forty-foot frame building took shape. The building was completed in 1939, when the Hamiltons took over Brother McClain’s work in Lubbock for a short duration.
Elder Lewis lived in Bryan, Texas. This dear black minister had been a special inspiration in Brother Hamilton’s earliest ministry, and the Hamiltons returned to Bryan for an eagerly anticipated visit. They stayed in the home of Mother Burlin, an aged saint of God who became desperately ill and lapsed into unconsciousness. Hearing the telltale gurgling sound in her throat, Brother Hamilton’s faith hit zero, and he sped off frantically in search of Brother Lewis.
Unhurriedly, Brother Lewis gathered up his anointing oil (a concoction of oil and spices he made himself) and his guitar, and at long last was ready to go. Detecting Brother Hamilton’s very obvious anxiety, he placed his hand on Brother Hamilton’s arm and said, “Don’t
you be afraid, Elder Hamilton. God already showed me that Mother Burlin needed help before you ever came.”
Undaunted by Mother Burlin’s unconscious state, Brother Lewis began strumming his out-of-tune guitar and singing his prayer: “Shake her, Lord! Shake her, Lord!” Still very much unconscious, she began to shake as if she had a Mississippi chill, before everyone’s doubting eyes. Turning to her daughter, Brother Lewis said, “Sister, get some house shoes and put them on Mother Burlin, because we’re expecting her to come out of this bed!” And come out she did, whirling and spinning like a top!
During this visit, Brother Hamilton took his gun and walked out of town to hunt squirrel. Crawling through a rusty barbed wire fence, he snagged not only his trousers, but his leg also. He thought little
of the “minor” injury, assuming it would soon heal, but instead it became red and inflamed and very painful. They loaded up and reached Doucette, Texas, where Brother and Sister Berry were in a revival. By now, Brother Hamilton knew that he was in a serious condition, having become quite ill. Red streaks ran from the angry wound and he had a raging fever and was dizzy. “I think blood poisoning has set in.” He sent the naive Sister Hamilton and D’Wayne to church, then turned his face to the wall and prayed like Hezekiah. Immediately a peace settled over him and he fell asleep. He was completely healed.
In Grabo, Louisiana, next on the Hamilton’s itinerary, an old French lady rose to testify. Laying her hand over on her sinner husband, she said, “I want you folk to pray for this old man. He’s a wicked sinner! He has given me lots of trouble in my life, and for forty years now, I’ve prayed for God to save him. So far, he is still unsaved, but if he lives another forty years and he is still unsaved, I’ll still pray for him.”
Embarrassed, Brother Hamilton supposed that the old fellow would get up and leave. When the altar call was given, the old man made his way to the aisle. He’s leaving now, thought Brother Hamilton, but to his amazement, the man came stumbling toward the altar, falling to his knees before he got there. He received the Holy Ghost that night, and Brother Hamilton baptized him in Jesus’ name.
It was 110 degrees at 10:00 PM in August of 1942 when the Hamiltons arrived in Phoenix, Arizona, for a revival. The saints brought along their own air conditioners–a hand fan or song book. After service one night, two ladies got into a fracas, and the older sister, by way of excusing herself of any blame, told Brother and Sister Hamilton, “The rebuke of the Lord came upon me and I came very near slapping her in the name of Jesus!” The Hamiltons were hard put to keep a straight face, and thereafter when church trouble arose they laughingly quoted the “Scripture,” but were never quite able to locate it in the Bible.
George Samuel joined the family in 1944 and Robert Dean in 1947. After a season of evangelizing, several short pastorates, and the arrival of these two sons, Brother Hamilton quite unwillingly agreed to take the struggling work in Amarillo, Texas, for thirty days. When revival fires flared, however, that thirty days stretched into nine great years. In 1950 a new church was built. Here, Brother Hamilton served as presbyter for several years, and here Mary Hamilton’s fondest wish came true–a beautiful baby girl was born, Georgia Elaine. And here Brother Hamilton met Roy. His niece tells the story:
The Last Mile with Roy
Roy’s long arm shot through the prison bars in a warm handshake. He was to die at midnight. As Brother Hamilton turned to leave, he asked, “Are you going home now?” “No, Roy I’m going with you to the end.” It was a promise.
Brother Hamilton had been asked by a relative to visit Roy in the county jail, where he awaited trial in the Forty Seventh District Court in Amarillo, Texas. The confusing details unscrambled into a sequence
of order. After two years of domestic embroilments, in a fit of jealousy and despair Roy took a piece of pipe and bludgeoned his wife,Rachel, to death on April 25, 1951.
Brother Hamilton’s first encounter with Roy was unforgettable. Roy, a tall, scholarly-looking man of forty three, bore closer resemblance to a doctor than a criminal. His open-faced admission to the crime, his honesty, and his genuine remorse shattered Brother Hamilton’s professional composure. Roy thanked Brother Hamilton for “a shoulder to cry on.” Brother Hamilton, reluctant to become involved for fear of focusing unfavorable attention on the church, felt mysteriously compelled to return to Roy’s cell again and again. This was the “first mile” with Roy.
Five months later, the judge pronounced the death penalty, only the second such sentence ever for Potter County. Brother Hamilton was now on his “second mile” with Roy. To “go with him twain” entailed a personal appearance before the Board of Pardons and Paroles at Austin. He asked that Roy’s sentence be reduced to life. Emblazoned newspaper headlines, “PASTOR JOINS IN PLEA,” spotlighted the irony of a defender of right choosing to help a wrongdoer. A cheery little Christmas card from Roy, now in the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, repaid his efforts. It was signed, “Your Brother.” He was no longer merely a prisoner, but a mutual friend.
Roy received the Holy Ghost and asked to be baptized in the penitentiary. Brother Hamilton was allowed to fulfill the request in a prison bathtub. The chaplain and warden reported Roy to be one of the best prisoners they had ever had. They were convinced he had obtained pardon from the unseen Judge. Seven months later, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction, with an execution date of February 6, 1953.
When he learned that Roy would be alone, Brother Hamilton made the momentous decision to go the “last mile” with Roy. From that moment on Brother Hamilton slept little. He tossed, he cried, he prayed. He could not eat. It wouldn’t be like watching a stranger die; Roy had become a personal friend. His body was behind bars of steel, but his soul was free.
As the end neared, Brother Hamilton knelt and prayed with Roy, whose last request was to be laid to rest beside his wife, Rachel. He assured Brother Hamilton of his own peace with God and unwavering faith in his destiny.
Brother Hamilton entered the execution chamber first and stood about eight feet directly in front of Roy. Roy’s calm last words were, “I have peace and joy in my heart; I love you all and may God bless you.” The muffled sounds of a prayer could be heard after the mask was fitted over his face.
For months, Brother Hamilton had prayed for a miracle–new evidence, another appeal, or even a stay of execution. The miracle came, but in a much different way from Brother Hamilton had expected. Roy’s body turned a deep purple. Prison authorities felt sure Roy was dead before the initial shock hit his body. The prison physician said that Roy may have “fainted,” as indicated by the blood rushing to the surface of his body. The editor and veteran reporter of the Huntsville Item, who had covered more than one hundred executions, said he had never witnessed anything like it. Headlines of the Amarillo GlobeTimes blazed this question: “WAS HULEN DEAD WHEN THE CURRENT STRUCK HIM? AUTHORITIES WONDER.”
Brother Hamilton turned to walk away. He had gone the “last mile” with Roy. But so had Someone else!
* * * * *
Tender-hearted Brother Hamilton, “The Weeping Prophet,” was never the same after this episode. He took a small country church, with no running water or inside bathroom facilities, seeking solace and
contrast. Here the family could hunt and fish and swim in a nearby pond. Here the children could have pets, and when the first stray dog wandered up during the night, he was christened Nicodemus. Here Brother Hamilton says his salary was 400 dollars a month–50 dollars in cash and 350 dollars in peace and quiet! The five wonderful years spent at Mountain Top were a much-needed balm for his weary body and shattered nerves.
There were other churches–Breckenridge and Albany and DeLeon and Coleman and Clarendon and Tahoka and Dumas. The biography begun by Mary Adele Hamilton was abruptly curtailed before their last nine years of successful pastorates in Friona, Texas, and Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, were recorded.
Upon retiring in 1977, Brother Hamilton’s lifelong dream was fulfilled at last–to live in Arkansas, where “The Weeping Prophet” still sheds unrestrained tears for his unsaved family and friends.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS COMPILED BY MARY H. WALLACE, AND PUBLISHED BY WORD AFLAME PRESS, 1992, PAGES 81-94. THIS MATERIAL WAS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.