Hamilton E. Holmes was born in Atlanta on July 8, 1941. The son of a businessman and school teacher, he was the oldest of five children who grew up in a middle-classed family that stressed education. Every member of his family for three preceding generations had been a college graduate, as well as each child of Holmes’ generation. While lettering in football, basketball, and track in high school, Dr. Holmes was also valedictorian.
After attending Morehouse College for a year, Dr. Holmes transferred to the University of Georgia. Along with Charlayne Hunter-Gault, he was one of the first two African-American students at the University of Georgia. Despite a constant barrage of attention and racially motivated hostility, he graduated
Phi Beta Kappa from UGA in 1963. He would go on to be the first African-American student to enter Emory University’s School of Medicine, graduating in 1967.
A respected orthopedic surgeon in Atlanta, Dr. Holmes was the Associate Dean at Emory’s School of Medicine and Chairman of the orthopedic unit at Grady Memorial Hospital.
In August of 1983, Dr. Holmes became the first African American to be named a trustee for the University of Georgia Foundation. Along with Hunter-Gault, Dr. Holmes was awarded UGA’s Bicentennial Medal in 1985. In 1993, the University bestowed its Distinguished Alumni Merit Award upon Dr. Holmes.
Dr. Reginald McKnight, a professor in the Franklin College of Arts & Sciences’ English Department, has served as the inaugural holder of the Hamilton E. Holmes Professorship since 2002.