Finley Ray Hamilton was born on January
21st, 1948 in Richmond, Kentucky to Charles and Nancy Hamilton.
He attended Eastern Kentucky University's 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 Master's 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 University's Reserve Officers'
Training Corps. He would go on to have an illustrious
35-year career in the Army Music 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 Army's Adjutant General's 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 General's
Corps Regimental Association's 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 died of cancer on Tuesday,
April 14th, 2009 at the age of 61 at his home in Ellicott
City, Maryland. His wife, Kathy, was with him throughout
his long illness.
He is survived
by his wife Kathy, his stepson José, and his sister Rebecca
Hamilton Brown of Ormond Beach, Florida.