Native son Waymon Hamilton would sit on his bike counting cars in the early 1950s as freight trains sauntered across North Main Street at the unprotected crossing between Front and Water Streets.
"I’d wait for a train to pass, seemed like forever but it probably was 15 minutes," said Hamilton, now 72. "But it seemed like every time it would almost clear the crossing and stop, then back up."
Trains were the bane of Hamilton’s young existence. From the time he was 8 and started riding his bike out of his north-side neighborhood, those trains balked the kid whose after-school interests — and most of the customers on the Fort Worth Press paper route he got when he was 12 — were south of the tracks.
"I waited at Elm Street or at North Main," Hamilton said. "Unless you went around the cemetery to North Mill Street and came in on the viaduct on Fort Worth Highway, that was what you did. But that was a long way around."
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Hamilton left his home town when he joined the National Guard in 1961 and spent the next decade and a half working in and managing various stores. When he returned home in 1977, he was delighted to see that a bridge had been built over those accursed tracks — connecting Franklin Street on the north to Brazos Street on the south. And, fortunately for emergency responders and everyone else who depended on it, by the time the bridge’s deteriorating condition made it unsafe, Hamilton had become a city councilman. As he counts down his final weeks on the council — he’ll be replaced by either Dale Fleeger or Reed Wainwright after a June 13 runoff — Hamilton sees spearheading the effort to rebuild the bridge that now carries his name as one of his most satisfying accomplishments.
"I see that as my lobbying effort," Hamilton said. "I got the council on board so that it would be a ‘we’ idea instead of a ‘me’ idea."
Consensus building defined Hamilton’s service in place 3 since May 1998, as well as a decade on the planning-and-zoning commission before that, said Joe Tison, who was Weatherford’s mayor from 2000 to 2007.
"You don’t need always to agree, but always do what’s best for everybody," Tison said. "That’s what Waymon always tried to do, what was best for Weatherford. He’d have to go and talk to a lot of people about something before he’d decide."
Things that Hamilton and most other council members saw eye-to-eye on include such community improvement projects as Heritage Park and facilities built there to enhance First Monday Trade Days. That swath of park land along Santa Fe Drive from Fort Worth Highway to Jack Borden Way also saw the addition of Patsy Hooks Dog Park, named for the woman who, until her passing in December 2013, was canine kinds’ greatest local advocate.
Some of Hamilton’s accomplishments aren’t as visible as its parks. In fact, one of them is seen only by folks who drive over a creek that separates two parking lots just north of Interstate 20. Hamilton said that developers stopped short of finishing the bridge, creating a hazard for anyone driving west on the I-20 service road and encountering a wrong-way driver determined to get to Walmart from Home Depot.
"It took two years to get people to agree to do it, and it only cost $1,500." Hamilton said.
Part of getting people to agree included the story about why the little bridge wasn’t finished. Hamilton was especially capable of doing that, because his memory of such things is amazing, said Craig Swancy, a fellow councilman since 2007.
"Having Waymon is kind of like having a history book at the council," Swancy said. "It’s good when someone wants to develop a piece of property. He knows the history on that property, what used to be there, what was successful or what failed at that particular place."
That "deep understanding of what Weatherford is about" made Hamilton an outstanding asset, said Jerry Blaisdell, formerly Weatherford’s police chief and, until his April 30 retirement, its city manager. "He brought all that to the various positions he filled in this city. Waymon was one of those people who dedicated his retirement years to serving his neighbors."
But that dedication to service never included a desire to be mayor, Hamilton said.
"I never ran for mayor because there was always a good one in office," said Hamilton, who served first under Mayor Tom McLaughlin.
Hamilton has served as mayor pro-tem, and would have been a good mayor, said Dennis Hooks, who has held that position since 2008.
"He would have been a very conscientious mayor," Hooks said. "Waymon knows the city’s history, the history of all the projects, what we promised 20 years ago, what we’ve fulfilled and haven’t fulfilled. He knows who hasn’t fulfilled a promise and he isn’t afraid to call them out on it. He’s easy to get to, easy to talk to."
Hamilton’s also a hero, said Councilwoman Heidi Wilder, who put herself under Hamilton’s wing after her 2011 election.
"He has mentored me, given me more strong advice and walked me through many minefields that I otherwise would have blown up on," said Wilder, an IRS auditor agent. "I’m used to seeing the financial side of issues, and he helped me see the other sides to issues — environmental, retail, planning-and-zoning aspects. How do you put a value on someone who knows everybody and has done everything?"
Hamilton’s family now will receive his full value as he shifts his focus to them. He and his wife, Carolyn, a physician services specialist with Weatherford Regional Medical Center, plan to travel and spend time with all the grandchildren that have come from four daughters: Deanna Hucabee. Donna Anderson, Shannon Lee Stubblefield and Janna Smith.
"My wife has been working all these years," Hamilton said. "We have grandkids in Tennessee we haven’t seen near enough."