John E. Hamilton of
HAMILTON MAGIC COMPANY …
- First and only Black American to represent the USA in the World Congress of Magic in Brussels, Belgium. Performed alongside the international elite of magic performers.
- Graduate of the prestigious Chavez College of Magic in Michigan. Coached by legendary manipulator Neil Foster, Hamilton achieved superb dexterity and showmanship.
- Creator of ‘Magic With a Message’ and ‘Making RIGHT Choices” school assembly programs enjoyed by over two million children of all ages since 1986.
John Hamilton was born in the ghettos of Cleveland, Ohio, a hot-bed of poverty, crime and despair. But, even as a child, he saw beyond the discouraging gray walls.
“I was raised to believe in what this country has to offer,” says Hamilton, “even though I couldn’t always see the great opportunities from where I was. But my father taught me that to reach a goal, you have to work hard, and stay focused on where you want to go–not easy to do, and I could see around me that many people just give up, let the garbage swallow them. I wouldn’t allow myself to surrender.”
Tagged as “learning disabled” by the schools, Hamilton never gave in to this negative assessment. With the aid of special tutoring when needed, he graduated valedictorian from the Cleveland Public School System.
After a distinguished tour of duty as a combat Marine in Vietnam documenting the war through pictures, Hamilton returned to Cleveland and became a news videographer for a local TV station. “Many stories we covered through the years were a direct result of the same hopelessness I saw around me as a child,” he relates. “The crime, the drugs… all of it was part of being poor and devalued in America. When nothing is expected of you, you expect nothing of yourself, and the vicious cycle continues.”
Since childhood, Hamilton nurtured an abiding interest in magic. “My parents took me to see Blackstone, Sr. on tour with his huge illusion show. All the magicians I saw were so polished, so in control. Tapes of Houdini really blew me away; with his talent, he was amazing!”
But there was little encouragement for Hamilton’s boyhood dream; black magicians were practically unheard of at that time. “I’d done a few shows for the school children while I was overseas,” says Hamilton. “But I knew that it would be tough trying to break in professionally here in the States.”
Spurred on by his phenomenal determination, Hamilton honed his skills, practicing incessantly. He performed at schools, clubs, anyplace with an audience. Word began to spread about the accomplished young black performer with the suave patter and the skillful hands.
Having gained a local audience of fascinated fans,Hamilton established an international reputation in 1979 as the first black magician to represent the USA in the World Congress of Magic in Brussels, Belgium (no other minority has done it since). Assisting him on stage was his wife, Ingrid, who also promotes and markets him behind-the-scenes. “Ingrid has been my ally and support through all this, and there have been some pretty tough moments. To know that there is someone behind you, standing with you through the difficulties, makes it much easier.”
Back in the States, Hamilton played the nightclub circuit and performed on cruise ships. His favorite audiences, however, were the children. “The Cleveland Public School System has been very good to me,” says Hamilton. “They’ve hired me back year after year, and even referred me to schools out-of-state. They regard me as a role model for kids, and the show is enjoyed by everyone.”
Already a professional showman, Hamilton aspired to sharpen his craft in manual dexterity, the most difficult skill a magician can master. He enrolled in the Chavez College of Magic in Battle Creek, Michigan, commuting the 4-hour drive every week for months until he earned his diploma. “Chavez was a one-of-a-kind learning experience for me, not just from a technical standpoint. My instructors persuaded me the audience was more than just money in our pockets or the reason we were there on stage—they were the reason we could be there. Neil Foster, the head teacher and a famous manipulator, instilled in me the desire to give more of myself than just a good, solid performance.”
Hamilton’s desire to give something back to the people led to his creation of “Magic With a Message” school assembly program. “My former tutor, now a principal, asked me to speak to her students and show them what could be accomplished by dedication and a desire to succeed. Afterwards, she affirmed that I had been very well received by her pupils, and suggested it might be a good idea to incorporate my success story into my school performances.
In the years that followed, Hamilton presented his messages through his magic performances for thousands of children across the country, telling his personal story of adversity and triumph, utilizing his talents and history to stand as a living example of the power of self-esteem.
“Children are told all their lives that their money and their sweat has value,” says Hamilton, “but they are rarely informed of their worth or told that they are somebody. This is especially true of ghetto children, children of color. I’m trying to show them how important it is to value yourself, your abilities and your dreams.”
“When a person can do this, he doesn’t need drugs, gangs, tricked-up sneakers or fancy sports jackets. Chasing these illusions of grandeur can shrivel the soul and leave nothing for himself, or even of himself. These children are our future; if no one tells them their future is worth working hard for, there will be no tomorrow.”
Magician, humanitarian, student and teacher of the human condition, John Hamilton is truly a man for all seasons.