John Hamilton, founder and producer of ‘Watch on Washington,’ dies at 84

Posted July 12, 2014, at 9:07 a.m.

WASHINGTON — John Hamilton, a print and television journalist who founded and produced the long-running public television series “Watch on Washington,” died June 7 at a hospital in Fairfax County, Virginia. He was 84.

The cause was Parkinson’s disease, said a son, Jay Hamilton.

From 1980 until 2002, “Watch on Washington” was telecast on PBS stations around the country. It was a prime-time series of town hall meetings with local and regional congressional delegations, including questions and comments on current events.

In 1990, it won an Emmy Award from the Washington chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

“In the normally under-budgeted, overly drab world of special public service programming, this particular effort shines brightly,” New York Times television critic John J. O’Connor wrote in 1981.

John Alfred Hamilton was born Aug. 24, 1929, in Richmond, Virginia, where his father was managing editor of the Richmond News Leader. He graduated from the University of Richmond in 1951 and from Columbia University’s journalism school in 1956. He was an Army veteran of the Korean War.

Hamilton was associate editor of the Lynchburg News from 1958 to 1963 and received a prestigious Nieman fellowship at Harvard University. He later became an editorial writer at the Ledger-Star in Norfolk, Virginia.

He was an associate editor of the Detroit Free Press when the newspaper’s staff won a Pulitzer Prize in the category of local general or spot news reporting for its coverage of the 1967 riots in Detroit.

He served on the editorial board of The New York Times from 1967 to 1973 and then started hosting TV news and public affairs programs in New York.

He came to the Washington area in 1980 and was a resident of McLean, Virginia. He was a past member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in McLean.

His wife of 52 years, Nancy Bradsher Hamilton, died in 2007. Survivors include two children, John “Jay” Hamilton Jr. of Arlington, Virginia and Anne Hamilton Deger of McLean, Virginia; two sisters; and four grandchildren.

 

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