Chuck Hampton A Remarkable Friend
Chuck Hampton is my friend. I’ve never embraced him, shook his hands, looked him in the eyes or raised a glass of cheer with him. Nevertheless, his passing over a month ago has left a void inside of me as deeply as if I had sat in his home on a weekly basis enjoying oysters and beer while we bantered about the various political and social issues of the day.
Back in 2010, I met Carole and Bill Cheatam for the first time. They attended a book signing and birthday party my wife organized for me at a local restaurant in Sandy Springs, Georgia. The book signing was for my novel Paper Puzzle, which had been released earlier that year. Carole Cheatam bought two copies of my legal thriller. She said she had a friend in the northeast whom she thought would enjoy a good read and later that year she would present it to him as a Christmas gift.
Fifteen days into 2011, I received notice from Amazon that I had received a new review of Paper Puzzle. I had no idea who had written a review and rushed over to the Amazon site to read it. I found a review from C. S. Hampton. It was short and to the point:
“Mr. Harvey has done a superb job, weaving a positive social message into a cleverly crafted suspense novel…I will sum up by stating that as entertaining as the story is, the message behind it is much more meaningful…Highly recommended.”
I was floored.
Someone I did not know had gotten the subtle nuances I had woven into this tale. Several days later, I got a Facebook request from Chuck Hampton. He introduced himself as Carole and Bill Cheatam’s friend. This was the beginning of a heartfelt social media friendship.
In those days, I would entertain my Facebook friends with music from the 1960s and ’70s. Chuck would often comment on these selections and offer music that he wanted included in the rotation. Since most of my selections were YouTube videos, he encouraged me to join Spotify. I did. I’m listening to the Duke Ellington Trio on Spotify as I write this piece.
Chuck learned that Cyn and I would be taking a road trip to sell books, so he curated a compact disc of his favorite music and sent it to me. We often enjoy Chuck’s selections when we are traveling by car to out of town book club events.
I believe Chuck religiously read most of my blog posts on politics. Sometimes he would write to say, “Hey Michael, what are your thoughts on this topic.” It was as if he could sense that I was purposely avoiding exploring that particular subject. His prompting would always pull me out of my shell and I would give the world a bit of controversy from the depths inside my mind.
My writing on trending topics never follows the popular flow of that trend. I like to peel back the onion in a sense to get my readers to ponder the complex conundrums, with the historical backdrop that produced the trending topic. For this reason, Chuck often wanted to know how my thoughts differed from the conventional wisdom of the day.
As noble and as scholarly as this goal is for any writer the public has little patience to explore anything other than the topic as it is trending. Sometimes this leads to harsh criticism because the reader thinks my diatribe is in opposition to their belief. Oftentimes, it is not, just an expansion of trending thoughts.
Chuck understood the pain that such moments caused me. During such times, Chuck would write to say: “Hey Michael, your point may not be widely accepted on the topic that is now trending, but you have a voice that must be heard.”
I counted on those messages from Chuck to lift my spirit, to keep me grounded and to keep me thinking of ways to better communicate difficult positions to the masses.
I knew something was wrong in the middle of 2015. Chuck had purchased a copy of my most recent book, Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System, shortly after it was released that April.
It did not take him long to zip through Justice in the Round. He wrote to say that I had hit the mark again and he would write a review on this collection of essays. Several months went by and there was no review. I was reluctant to ask him about it. I did not want to put any extra stress on his time. It was enough to know that he had written to say, he believed that I had penned a piece that needed to see the light of day.
Then in October, this review came through in succinct Chuck fashion:
“Mr. Harvey has written a definitive account of the inequality of the judicial system as it applies to people of color…Mr. Harvey’s final chapter, a synopsis of the events and his indictment of indifferent juries and titled verdicts, is where the author’s analytical mind truly shines. Justice in the Round is a great read for those who wish for a fair and equitable justice system.”
In April, a year after the publication of Justice in the Round, Cyn and I went out to dinner to celebrate the acclaim that this book is receiving. As our meal was being served, a text message came through from Bill Cheatam:
“Michael, Chuck Hampton is home on hospice care. They say he is fighting it but may not make it through the night.”
I immediately asked Cyn to book me a flight to Philadelphia. While we were making arrangements for me to visit with Chuck before the day was over, another text from Bill Cheatam came through:
“My brother, our friend passed away at 6:45.”
Floored, I almost felt that I had been robbed of a friendship. Only my faith in the rejuvenation of “Source” energy keeps me from thinking that our friendship expired. Long live the essence of Chuck Hampton, a remarkable friend.
About The Author
Harold Michael Harvey is a Past President of The Gate City Bar Association and is the recipient of the Association’s R. E. Thomas Civil Rights Award. He is the author of Paper Puzzle and Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System, and a two-time winner of Allvoices’ Political Pundit Prize. His work has appeared in Facing South, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine, Black Colleges Nines, and Medium.