In the 1980s, Lonnie Hamilton III operated Lonnie's Jazz Club at 110 N. Market St. For more than two decades, he was band director at Bonds-Wilson High School in North Charleston. In 1970, he became the first Black person to serve on Charleston County Council, serving twice as its chairman. | Picture provided

Retired music educator Lonnie Hamilton III has received many honors, but the Tip of The Hat Award he will get on Oct. 14 during the Charleston Jazz fundraising gala comes with a special meaning.

The award is named for Charleston Jazz co-founder the late Jack McCray, who was a mainstay at entertainment and social venues around town as he sported his classy “chapeaus.” 

As a music critic and jazz historian, McCray authored Charleston Jazz, in 2007 that chronicles the city’s contribution to America’s jazz tradition. The book includes William Louis Gailliard’s band the Royal Sultans. Gailliard gave a 17-year-old Hamilton his first gig as a professional alto saxophonist.

“Jack McCray [wrote about] the guys who took us as young people and got us involved in music,” playing at places like Folly Beach when it was off limits to Black people, said the 94-year-old Hamilton. “I am happy about the award because Jack gave attention to the contributions the early people made.”

The Keepin’ Jazz Alive gala will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Harbour Club at Westedge. For tickets, go to CharlestonJazz.com. Proceeds during a paddle-raise auction will support jazz performances and music education, including scholarships for students at the Charleston Jazz Academy.

The gala will feature a performance by award-winning trumpeter Sean Jones, members of the Charleston Jazz Orchestra and students of the Charleston Jazz Academy. Jones holds the Richard and Elizabeth Case Chair in Jazz Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute in Baltimore. He is also the artistic director for the National Youth Orchestra Jazz program at Carnegie Hall. He has performed with Jimmy Heath, Nancy Wilson and Dianne Reeves.

Established in 2008 as Jazz Artists of Charleston, Charleston Jazz presents, produces and advocates for the city’s jazz community. The organization manages the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, the Charleston Jazz Festival and the Charleston Jazz Academy.


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