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H. M. Hamill (Howard Melancthon), 1847-1915
The Old South, a Monograph
Dallas, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.: Smith & Lamar, Agents, Publishing House of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, [1904].

Summary

Howard M. Hamill was born in Lowndesboro, Alabama in 1847. His father, who was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, made sure that Hamill received a rigorous education. Hamill attended East Alabama College and received both his bachelor's and master's degree there. After teaching in Missouri, in 1881 he became the superintendent of public schools in Jacksonville, Illinois. In 1885 he became a minister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, but three years later he turned his attention to Sunday schools and devoted the rest of his professional life to improving the training of Sunday school teachers. Hamill organized and became superintendent of the Illinois State Sunday School Association. He published many books related to his profession, including Legion of Honor: Textbook for Sunday School Teachers (published in five different languages), The Bible and its Books, The Sunday School Teacher, Sunday School Teacher Training and several others. He also wrote his memoir, The Old South, and published several poems. He was married twice, to Gertrude Dillon of Alabama in 1870, and to Ada Tuman of Illinois in 1885. Hamill and Ada traveled to Japan for a six-month tour in 1907. Hamill died in Tennessee in 1915.

The Old South, a Monograph [1904], recounts the social life and customs of the antebellum South. Hamill begins by attributing his moral character to his upbringing in the old South. He calls Jamestown, rather than Plymouth Rock, the "matrix of American liberty" and points to the statesmanship of southern politicians and the military leadership of southern officers as examples of southern excellence. He discusses social stratification of the antebellum South and argues that the "poor white" class as it is caricatured in literature is not an accurate portrayal of the white lower classes. Hamill also asserts that aristocrats and slaves had a happy relationship, and that African Americans who were raised in slavery are more cultured and respectable than those who were born free. He then discusses the qualities that distinguish the antebellum southern aristocracy—significant, sustainable wealth, devotion to family heritage, and a high code of honor. He refutes the critics of the old South's culture, who said there were few prominent southern literary figures, by pointing out the great literary figures and statesmen the region had produced. Lastly, he notes that Christianity is devotedly practiced in the South, yet at the same time there is an unparalleled spirit of religious tolerance.

Work Consulted: The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography 16 (1918): 35-36.

Harris Henderson

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