Lawrence Hamlar

Lawrence Harrison Hamlar, also known as L.H. Hamlar or Larry Hamlar was born on November 27, 1921, and was the fifth of nine children born to Robert and Maude Hamlar in Virginia. He was a prominent African American civic leader, businessman, and philanthropist in Roanoke, Virginia.

Hamlar attended Roanoke public schools, graduating from Lucy Addison High School in 1939. He matriculated to Virginia State College (now Virginia State University) graduating with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a minor in business. Lettering in football, Hamlar was a member of the Virginia State University Football Hall of Fame.

Hamlar apprenticed at Citizens Undertaking in Roanoke. He became a certified licensed mortician after completing the Gupton-Jones School of Mortuary Science degree in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1952, Hamlar established the Hamlar and Curtis Funeral Home with his co-partners Cecil and Marilyn Curtis.

As Lawrence worked to build up his business in the 1950s and 1960s, he worked with others in the community to end segregation and bring on peaceful integration. Hamlar led a biracial committee of twelve white and black Roanoke business leaders to peacefully desegregate Roanoke, Virginia. Most notably, Hamlar worked with city leaders to quell civil disturbance after the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hamlar was the first African American to serve on the Roanoke City School Board as a member and as its school board president. In October 1959, Hamlar co-founded the Pine Valley Golf Association during Jim Crow segregation, becoming a member of its Pine Valley Golf Association Hall of Fame. He was also the first African American member accepted to Roanoke’s elite Shenandoah Club.

An outspoken advocate of higher education, Hamlar served on the board of Virginia Western Community College for 8 years and as its board’s president for 2 years. Hamlar established the Constance J. Hamlar Memorial English Major Scholarship for minority students at Virginia Western Community College to honor his late wife Constance who taught English at the community college for 11 years. In 1994, this endowment exceeds $250,000. In 1983, Hamlar established another memorial scholarship in his late wife’s name at Roanoke College. Hamlar also co-founded the Pine Valley Golf Association during Jim Crow segregation in October 1959, and was a member of its Pine Valley Golf Association Hall of Fame. He was also the first African-American member accepted to Roanoke’s elite Shenandoah Club.

Hamlar was a co-founder of Valley Bank in Roanoke, Virginia. He was also the Chairman of Explorer Park during its formation. He was also a member of Destination Education and helped establish the Roanoke Higher Education Center in May 2001. Hamlar also served as campaign manager for former Roanoke Mayor Noel C. Taylor, widely considered one of the most influential leaders in Roanoke, Virginia’s history. Hamlar was awarded the Noel C. Taylor Distinguished Humanitarian Award in 1993 and the City of Roanoke Citizen of the Year in 2001. Hamlar served on numerous boards including the Roanoke Ballet, Roanoke College as a trustee and 15-year board member, Roanoke Memorial Hospital, Roanoke Symphony Society, and the Roanoke Science Museum.

A former Roanoke School Board member, Hamlar has served on community boards including those at Roanoke College, Virginia Western Community College, the Science Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, Virginia’s Recreational Facilities Authority, the Roanoke Ballet, and the United Negro College Fund. He has also been a member of the Henry Street Revival Committee, Design ’85 Steering Committee, and the State Advisory Council of the Small Business Administration. He is a life member of the NAACP. In May 1999, Hamlar received a Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Roanoke College. He also received a Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Virginia Seminary in Richmond. He was a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity and a member of the Beta Phi boule of Sigma Pi Phi fraternity.

He was inducted into the Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame in 1999 and passed away in Roanoke on December 31, 2003.

Lawrence Hamlar was inducted into the Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame in 1999.

© Copyright SWVA Junior Achievement. All Rights Reserved. | Accessibility | Privacy Policy | Sitemap | SWVA Junior Achievement