Friday, December 4, 2015

Hamilton et al

Among the notable names who continued to surface during the construction phase of the Brookville dam was the 9th District Congressman, Lee H. Hamilton.

Hamilton was elected in 1964 during a national Democratic Party landslide that swept Lyndon B. Johnson into the presidency. Hamilton, a native of Evansville and a resident of Columbus, defeated Republican Earl Wilson in the 1964 election.

Wilson was from Bedford and had served as congressman in the 9th from 1940 to 1958, when he lost to Earl Hogan. Later, Wilson won the seat back before losing to Hamilton.

Both Wilson and Hamilton supported the federal reservoir project, though Hamilton was much more hands-on during the phase that generated the funds to actually build the thing. Hamilton also was in the gravy since both of Indiana's senators -- Vance Hartke and Birch Bayh -- were also Democrats.

Lyndon Johnson was inclined to pursue federal spending and the Brookville project was a perfect slice of the pie.

For his part, Hamilton was active in helping oversee the reservoir project, even down to the details of the location of some roads.

To the folks in Brookville who supported the reservoir project, Hamilton couldn't have been a better pal. He was instrumental in obtaining initial funding for the work.

Hamilton was an interesting guy for a lot of reasons. As a member of Congress, he served the 9th District until 1999 and after his term in the House, participated in hearings that probed the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.

He was viewed as a potential Democratic vice-presidential running mate in 1984, 1988, and 1992, due to his foreign policy credentials and Indiana's potential to turn into a "blue" state due to economic concerns. He was never nominated.

His early life is interesting on another level. While a student at Evansville Central High School, he was one of the team's star basketball players and helped the Bears reach the Final Four in 1948. In the semifinal game that afternoon, Hamilton injured his knee and was not at full strength for the title game.

The Bears lost to Lafayette Jefferson 54-42 in the finals but Hamilton was rewarded as the Arthur Trester Award winner for mental attitude. He played collegiate basketball at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.

In 1982, Hamilton was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

On Aug. 11, 2012, Hamilton's wife Nancy died in an auto-related accident; no one else was injured.

Hamilton was one of two Congressional representatives with a vested interest in the work. The other was Richard Roudebush, a Republican who served the 10th District.

Roudebush later served as the Administrator of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Administration from 1974 to 1977. He died Jan. 28, 1995.


From Dec. 9, 1965: "The reservoir groundbreaking ceremonies will get under way at 9 p.m. tomorrow with a 'sing-along' at the local Knights of Columbus hall. Robert Fisher of Enochsburg will be the emcee."

"Ruth Wendell,  Franklin County reigning queen of the Indiana Sesquicentennial, and her attendants Beverly Blose and Carolyn Lang, will also attend."


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Ervin Moffett was the first person to sell his property to the government. That occurred on Aug. 24, 1965. By the middle of 1966, an average of four homeowners sold out each week.

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Battle Point Road on the west side of the river was closed on Monday, Nov. 29, 1965.

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As of mid-October, 1965, relocation of Fairfield to the Huber-Klein farms was not a done deal ... the Corps of Engineers said it could not guarantee that a causeway across the lake would be built. The causeway was to add $2 million to the cost of the project.

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Irvin Smith's house on the west side of the river was the first to be moved to make way for the reservoir, and was relocated on Mill Street in Brookville in September, 1965.

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In October, 1964, the town of Brookville was so thrilled that the first $500,000 had been appropriated that it staged a parade. Marching bands, the whole nine yards. The theme was "Tourism, Industry, Job Opportunities, Flood Control for the Whitewater Valley." That about covered it. Dignitaries spoke at a big fiesta after the parade ended at the ballpark.

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