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African-American educator Hamilton Hatter was born in Jefferson County about 1856. He completed the teacher training program at Storer College in Harpers Ferry in 1878 but remained there for the next two years, working as a student assistant while he continued his education. He received a bachelor’s degree from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, in 1888. That year, Hatter joined the faculty at Storer College, where he taught a variety of subjects during the next eight years. From 1891 to 1906, he was a member of the college board of trustees.

Hatter was active in Republican Party politics in Jefferson County, where most party members were African-American in the years after the Civil War. When Republicans held their county convention in August 1892, African-Americans worked to have a Black man placed on the ticket. As a result, Hamilton Hatter was nominated as the county’s Republican candidate for the West Virginia House of Delegates. The selection of a Black man attracted attention beyond county borders and was noted in several state newspapers. Although he lost the election to the incumbent Democrat, Hatter received 1,051 votes according to local newspapers.

In 1896, Hatter left Jefferson County to become the first principal of Bluefield Colored Institute (now Bluefield State University), which opened in December of that year. He was principal for ten years until he and much of the faculty were replaced in 1906. Hatter had labored in the building trades during his student days, and after leaving the Institute he turned to construction contracting and real estate. He later returned to Bluefield Colored Institute as superintendent of buildings and grounds and director of industrial education.

Hamilton Hatter died in Bluefield, September 21, 1942. Hatter Hall at Bluefield State University is named in his honor.

This Article was written by Mary Johnson

Last Revised on January 22, 2024


Caldwell, A. B., ed. History of the American Negro vol. 7: West Virginia Edition. Atlanta: A. B. Caldwell Pub. Co., 1923, and Morgantown, West Virginia University Press, 2012,.

Reports of the Board of Regents of Bluefield Colored Institute, Biennial Reports. 1903-1906.

Storer College Catalogs. 1877-1906.

Cite This Article

Johnson, Mary "Hamilton Hatter." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 22 January 2024. Web. 29 May 2024.


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