“I like people … You will find, in me, a good listener.”
— Howard Hamilton, July 7, 2016, Omaha World Herald
Historian and well-known local character Howard Hamilton died of COVID-19 last November. His cremated remains were interred almost a year later, November 6, 2021, at Westlawn/Hillcrest Cemetery near 57th and Center Streets.
Hamilton devoted his life to collecting and cataloging a staggering number of historic news clippings and odd antiquities related to Omaha. What many dismissed as detritus, Hamilton saw as a rich and important source of stories. Much of his collection was donated to the Durham Museum in 2012.
Hamilton’s family moved to Omaha from Wisconsin when he was six years old. After graduating from Tech High School and Creighton University, he studied Arabic and Urdu at Georgetown University. During the 1960s, he was an administrator for the Army Corps of Engineers, then taught history at Metropolitan Community College from 1975 to 2000.
The loquacious Hamilton, who uncannily resembled Santa in his later years, wrote a number of books. The Omaha Public Library has several copies of “Believe It, Omaha (Or Not).” He also authored a series of books about burials in local cemeteries, another of his passions. He delighted in leading Halloween cemetery tours for the public, wearing a cape and top hat, often telling visitors he knew where all the bodies were buried, “even the ones without markers.”
For those who want to test their knowledge, the 1993 board game “Trivia-Omaha” with 1,300 trivia questions written by Hamilton can still be found online. Hamilton was preceded in death by his parents; two sisters, Mary Ann Radtke and Edith Beckwith; and four brothers, John Orville Hamilton Jr., Donald Wilfred Hamilton, Edward (Jimmy) Hamilton and infant brother Richard Darrell Hamilton.