Finley Ray Hamilton, Colonel (Ret.), United States Army, died of cancer on Tuesday, April 14, 2009 at the age of 61 at his home in Ellicott City, Maryland. His wife, Kathy, was with him throughout his long illness.
Finley was born on January 21, 1948 in Richmond, Kentucky to Charles and Nancy Hamilton. He attended Eastern Kentucky Universityís Model School and later Madison High School. He graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Music in 1970 and a Masterís degree in Music in 1975. Throughout his education, he was an active member of the music fraternity Phi Mu Alpha, and marked himself as a career musician early on.
In 1971, Colonel Hamilton was commissioned as an officer in the United States Army through Eastern Kentucky Universityís Reserve Officersí Training Corps. He would go on to have an illustrious 35-year career in the Army Bands Program, commanding the Army Ground Forces Band at Ft. McPherson, Georgia, the U.S. Army Europe Band and Chorus in Heidelberg, Germany, and The U.S. Army Field Band, Washington, D.C.
Colonel Hamilton was a graduate of the Armyís Adjutant Generalís Officer Basic and Advanced Courses and the Command and General Staff College. His decorations included the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and the Overseas Service Ribbon. He was given the Adjutant Generalís Corps Regimental Associationís highest award for service to the regiment, the Horatio Gates Medal in Gold.
Colonel Hamilton was a member of the prestigious American Bandmasters Association, the World Association for Symphonic Bands and Ensembles, and the Texas Bandmasters Association. He was President of the National Band Association at the time of his passing. Eastern Kentucky University awarded him its honorary Doctor of Arts degree in 2003 in recognition of his lifetime of service to music, music education, and the university. He was also inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame, and into the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.
Throughout his career, Colonel Hamilton remained active as a guest conductor and clinician, conducting numerous state and national music festivals and conventions, as well as the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and the Detroit Symphony. He was a fine representative of the United States Army and of the music community. People close to him knew him for his old-fashioned, Middle American sensibilities, his passion for excellence in music, his cheerful pursuit of golf, and his appreciation of a good joke. His Soldiers knew him as an honest, even-handed commander.
Colonel Hamilton is survived by his wife Kathy, his stepson Josť, and his sister Rebecca Hamilton Brown of Ormond Beach, Florida. He is preceded in death by his parents and his brother Benny.