Neal White

I want to publicly commend John Hamilton on his outstanding research and well-written article on how Waxahachie got its name, published in last Wednesday’s edition. I also want to express my heartfelt gratitude to John for sharing his work with the Sun and our readers.

Without a doubt it is the best piece of journalism on the subject — and during the past two decades I’ve scoured tens of thousands of pages of old Waxahachie newspapers and historic records on our community. It is a great article and since its publication has become one of the most viewed articles on our digital platforms.

For years I’ve witnessed John’s talent, his dedication to serve and his ability to rally support for a community cause. 

Relocating to Waxahachie after retiring as a business executive, I’ve not seen any sign of John and his wife Arlene slowing down. When it comes to giving back and getting involved, they are usually the first ones in the room to raise a hand when the call for volunteers is issued. More importantly, when it comes to finding solutions for difficult problems, during the years we’ve worked together on community projects, John has usually been at the forefront when it comes to suggesting options, and then building a coalition to support the cause. 

They aren’t downtown business owners, but John and Arlene are among the best ambassadors the Downtown Merchants Association has ever had. They not only volunteer to help out at WDMA events, but John goes above and beyond the call of duty to promote the events. I can’t even begin to put a number on how many times I’ve seen him strike up a conversation with someone standing nearby and personally invite them to an upcoming event.

The same holds true for their involvement in the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce — as evidenced by being honored with this year’s Mabel Frame Award in recognition of their work in promoting tourism for the city. 

And while they don’t serve on the Waxahachie City Council, they are both active in helping promote city events and raising awareness for city causes. And not just from a booster standpoint, but always from that of a stakeholder providing stewardship for what’s best for the community’s future.

Several years ago, the senior center members met at the Optimist Building on Patrick Street, which at the time was in desperate need of repair and had very little public funding support. Dave Eder and Mary Meeks were spearheading a grassroots campaign to raise money to repair the building. 

The Rotary Club heard about the center’s plight and agreed to join the campaign. While scores of Rotarians were involved in the project, John jumped in the fray with both feet. He (and a few others) were the first to voice support for building a specifically designed facility for the community’s seniors and led focus groups and arranged tours of senior centers throughout the North Texas region. In a very short amount of the time, that small grassroots effort to raise about $150,000 to renovate a century-old barn that had been relocated and converted into a community century had transformed into something most of the residents in Waxahachie (myself included), never thought possible.

With the Rotary’s involvement, the scope shifted from renovating the Optimist Building to building a new center designed specifically for the community’s senior population. And, with the Rotary’s pledge to raise $1 million for the project and a pledge from a local business developer to donate a tract of land on U.S. Highway 77 South, they were able to convince the city of the need to fund the remaining costs. I wasn’t in the room when those meetings took place, but I know John was. I have no doubt that he played an influential role in the discussions.

I spent a lot of time working with John (and other Rotarians) on the Rotary’s fundraising campaign. The paper became a partner of the campaign and John and I met two or three times a week for a year to strategize on different ways to raise awareness and make sure residents had as much information as possible about the new center. That year John wrote a ton of stories about the project for the paper. He volunteered to write and most times, even had photos to accompany the story.  Needless to say, the Rotary Club met its fundraising goal and the center is being used daily by hundreds of residents in the community.  

John and Arlene are both Ellis County Master Gardeners and are active in the organization, especially in helping promote its events and programs. I’ve had the pleasure of publishing dozens of gardening columns Arlene has written for the organization.

And least I forget, John is also on the board of directors for the Ellis County Musuem, the original benefactor of his research and the report shared with Sun readers last week. The museum is also in the midst of a capital campaign drive, and you probably guessed, John is among those front and center working to ensure its success. And yes, the Sun has already partnered with the museum in helping inform residents about the many interesting items among the museum’s collection. As part of our partnership, the Sun is producing short “artifacts at the museum” videos available for viewing on our YouTube channel and digital platforms. And yes, John, along with museum director Shannon Simpson, are featured in the videos as they share the story behind a different artifact in each video.

The Hamiltons aren’t city founders, but they are certainly community pillars and I am fortunate to be among the thousands of Waxahachie residents they have befriended since choosing Waxahachie as their hometown. 

During all the years I’ve known them — and worked with them on numerous community causes — they have and continue to make Waxahachie a wonderful place to live, work and raise our families. 

Thank you for all you do. While I’ve told them directly, I want to say publicly that anytime John and Arlene feel moved  to put pen to paper their words will always have a home in the Sun.

 

Neal White is the chief content officer of The Waxahachie Sun. An award-winning journalist and published author, he was also commissioned by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry as an Honorary Admiral in the Texas Navy. Reach Neal by email at neal@waxahachiesun.com, or by phone at 214-673-3695. 

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