WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The City of Wilmington will declare March 7 as Mel Hamilton Day during a proclamation ceremony free and open to the public. The event will take place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the ILA Hall, located at 1305 South Fifth Ave. in Wilmington. Mel Hamilton plans to attend.
Mel Hamilton, who grew up in Wilmington, was a member of the historic University of Wyoming Black 14 that protested the racist policies of Brigham Young University in 1969.
BYU was owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (better known as the Mormons). The church had policies in place that did not allow black men to practice priesthood.
Hamilton and 13 of his UW football teammates protested BYU before a game by wearing black armbands on their civilian clothes.
The group was immediately kicked off the team, and thrust into history and national spotlight, becoming known as the Black 14.
The actions of the Black 14 led to the UW changing their policy to allow student athletes the right to protest. In 1978, the Mormon Church reversed its’ policy and opened the priesthood to African Americans.
Hamilton graduated from the UW and went on to become a principal and a leading educator in the state of Wyoming. He also joined the NAACP and has continued a lifelong commitment to racial equality. Hamilton also served in the US Army.
The following proclamation will be read during Saturday’s event: