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William R. Hamilton, pollster, consultant
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 5, 2000
William R. Hamilton, a trend-setting pollster and consultant whose clients and friends included many of the biggest names among Florida Democrats, died Saturday, April 1, in Fernandina Beach. He was 61.
His Washington-based firm, Hamilton Beattie & Staff, said Mr. Hamilton died from complications of cancer.
Mr. Hamilton, a pollster for four presidential campaigns, was a native Floridian and Amelia Island resident who was widely regarded as an expert in state politics and trends. Former Florida Democratic Party Chairman Charles Whitehead recalled Tuesday that he hired Hamilton as the party's pollster shortly after taking office in 1980 and used him throughout the decade.
When Whitehead was recruited to revitalize the state party last year, he hired Mr. Hamilton to conduct a poll on one of Republican Gov. Jeb Bush's favorite issues, tuition vouchers.
"Bill, in my opinion, knew Florida better than any pollster I knew," Whitehead said. "Florida lost a good pollster, but I lost a good friend."
Mr. Hamilton's Florida clients included the late Gov. Lawton Chiles; former Gov. Reubin Askew; U.S. Sen. Bob Graham; state Attorney General Bob Butterworth; and Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson.
"For years, Bill Hamilton was my friend and counselor," Graham said in a statement Tuesday. "He was one of the pioneers of modern campaigns, and a great American and Floridian. We will miss him greatly."
Nationally, Mr. Hamilton's clients ranged from Sens. John Glenn of Ohio and Lloyd Bentsen of Texas to the gubernatorial campaigns of John Y. Brown in Kentucky and Jimmy Carter in Georgia. William Ray Hamilton was born in Orlando and graduated from the University of Florida, where he also received a master's degree. Since 1987, Mr. Hamilton has been a professor in the graduate program in political campaigning at the University of Florida.
Mr. Hamilton is survived by his wife, Anne Thibault, Amelia Island; his mother, Dorothy Hamilton, two brothers, Brian and Alan Hamilton, and a sister, Patricia Pekins, all of Orlando.
Services will be held at the Chapel on Amelia Island Plantation at 11 a.m. Saturday. Donations may be made to the Bill Hamilton Memorial Survey Research Fund at the University of Florida.