Posted 4/4/2014 11:35 am
Updated 4 months ago
Broadway star and musician Lawrence Hamilton died Thursday. He was 59.
According to friends and Hamilton's Facebook page, the Foreman (Little River County) native died during heart surgery in New York.
Hamilton’s career spanned the globe, with Broadway credits including "Play On," “Jelly’s Last Jam,” “The Wiz,” “Uptown It’s Hot,” “Blues in the Night” and “Ragtime.”
His sister, Evelyn Hall, told the Associated Press that Hamilton died on Thursday after complications from surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Some of Hamilton's other professional credits include serving as a musical director for opera star Jessye Norman; a vocal coach for pop group "New Kids on the Block"; and performing for former president Ronald Reagan and at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II.
"We are all saddened by the loss of Arkansas Broadway star Lawrence Hamilton," Gov. Mike Beebe's office said on Twitter. "He was a good friend to the Beebes for many years."
Hamilton told the Associated Press in a 2002 interview that he used to spend his high school summers working at a southwest Arkansas poultry plant while dreaming of making it on Broadway.
"Trucks would pull up with these stinky chickens and turkeys," Hamilton told the AP. "I had to grab them by the legs. My knuckles would swell up. I told my dad, 'I'm a pianist. Look at my hands. I can't do this."
Hamilton studied music education at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia and later became a member of the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame.
He was musical director for opera star Jessye Norman and performed at the White House, at the Vatican for Pope Paul II, and in concert with the legendary Lena Horne.
At the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, he appeared as Whining Boy in “The Piano Lesson,” created by Souvenir.
Hamilton's memorial service is set for Tuesday (April 8) at 2 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, located at 1101 N. Mississippi Ave. in Little Rock.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)