Kennedy Park, at 899 Kennedy Blvd in Brooksville, will be renamed Coach Lorenzo Hamilton Sr. Park in memory of the beloved coach. At the Oct. 24 regular Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting, the board voted unanimously in favor of the renaming.
Community Services Director Chris Linsbeck, along with several members of the community, recounted the life of Coach Hamilton, beginning when he arrived in Brooksville in 1965, when schools were still segregated. Black students attended Moton High School, and white students went to Hernando High. After schools were integrated, Coach Hamilton transferred to Hernando High, where he eventually became the Assistant Principal.
Hamilton served as a physical education teacher and football coach in 1966. He founded Kennedy Park Little League to give African-American boys in Brooksville a chance to play organized baseball. He also formed the Brooksville Jets girls’ softball team, which went on to win a state championship.
He was later named the first principal of Frank W. Springstead High School in Spring Hill. During his career, Hamilton mentored hundreds of young people, including several boys who received athletic scholarships to college and NFL assignments for Ricky Feacher and Curtis Bunche, 1979 7th-round draft picks for the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 1971, Coach Hamilton coordinated the first Black History Assembly at Hernando High School.
Linsbeck said, “He went above the call of duty. Mr. Lorenzo Hamilton had established himself as a major contributor to the lives and education of many community members in Brooksville and Hernando County.”
The 22-acre park is located at 899 Kennedy Boulevard, south of East Jefferson Street and east of Emerson Road.
The process began with forming a Naming Committee consisting of Pastor Clarence Green, Pastor Vincent Parnell, Kojack Burnett, Deputy County Administrator Toni Brady, and Park and Recreation Administrator Rob Talmadge.
Pastor Green added that past mentees of Coach Hamilton include military veterans who rose to the rank of Colonel, sports figures who have played in the Super Bowl, members of the clergy and other successful members of the community.
Pastor Parnell, who was raised by a single mother, credits Hamilton for setting the tone for his life. Parnell went on to become a Florida Highway Patrolman for 35 years. “He played a very important role in my life.”
Parnell laughed with the rest of the chamber when Commissioner Steve Champion said, “You gave me a ticket before. I think you gave everyone in my shop a ticket.”
Former student George Foster gave a humorous account of his memory with Coach Hamilton on his final day at Hernando High School.
“The last day of my senior year … I brought a sack of black racers to school. Snakes. I let them go in different classes… I had one snake left in the sack. The (final) bell had rung, and one of my classmates brought a can of Miller beer and left it for a school teacher named Mr. Miller. He was freaking out, and I said, ‘Well, I’ll just put it in the bag and take it out with me.’ Mr. Hamilton caught me in the hallway with the bag, ‘What do you got in that bag, Foster?’ and he stuck his hand in, and I thought the snake was going to get him.”
“He pulls out the beer and says, ‘You come with me,’ and I went to the office. While I was in the office, the snake came out of the bag, and that was the end of it!”
Stephanie Richardson was Brooksville Jet when they won the state championship. Though she did not continue in sports, she credits Hamilton with being very instrumental in her life.
Civil Engineer Alan Garman credits Hamilton with bridging the gap during integration. “I was there at Hernando High School when the black students had no choice but to come to Hernando High. Lorenzo Hamilton did more than any teacher, any administrator to bridge the racial gap at Hernando High School.”
Coach Hamilton left us on October 22, 2022. He was 84.