One of the hardest things to do is to learn of someone’s death and it is too late to adjust your schedule so that you can attend the service. That is what happened to me last week. I got home a little after 8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 15, and learned of the death of William “Bill” Hampton. The wake had been held that evening and the funeral was scheduled to take place the next day.
My heart sank at learning that news. I then began a search to learn that Bill, 72, had been in a nursing home recovering from an undisclosed surgery. His passing on Feb. 8 will leave a major void in the black activist community.
I don’t know when or where I first met Bill, but whenever his distinctive handwriting came in the mail, I knew immediately that it would be an invitation to an event that I would want to attend. Bill would also call me with his invites. So to learn of his passing too late to make arrangements to pay my last respects was hurtful.
I want to use this bully pulpit platform that I have to speak on Bill. He was one of the best and one of the last of the true black revolutionaries from the 1960s who fought for black people without selling us out. He carried on his allegiance to his late brother, Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton.
While Fred was a natural born orator, Bill did what he did with dedication. Even though the crowds were small at his annual Fred Hampton Scholarship Fund Image Award event, he trudged on with unfailing perseverance. I attended several of the award ceremonies in the past and am proud to have been an awardee in 2011.
Not only did I have the opportunity to get to know and admire Bill, I got to meet his and Fred’s mother, Iberia Hampton. I was in awe to be in the presence of a woman whose son was for many of us, the icon that defined the black power movement in Chicago. Mrs. Hampton passed away in October, 2016 at the age of 94.
Bill Hampton served as a commissioner for the park district in Maywood. He understood intrinsically the importance that recreational facilities play in the continuing development of a community.
As many of the legends of the Civil Rights and Black Panther eras pass on, it will be the young ones who should be stepping forward to take over the reins. I don’t know who will fill Bill’s shoes, but to our young people I ask that someone step up to that plate.
Rest in Peace Bill Hampton. You did well while you were here!