HON. JOHN ROBERT HAMILTON, one of the most valuable members of the Illinois State Senate, having represented the Thirty-fourth Senatorial District for twenty years, is a resident of Mattoon. He has long been prominent in the political and commercial life of Coles County. His business is that of a whole sale and retail coal merchant.
Senator Hamilton was born in Coles County, son of James and Margaret (Hoskins) Hamilton. The Hamilton family is of Scotch ancestry and came to America in Colonial times. His grandfather, John Hamilton, came to Illinois from Ohio, but later returned to Ohio, where he lived out his life. James Hamilton was born in Adams County, Ohio, grew up there, and as a young man settled in Coles County, Illinois. He was a school teacher and farmer, was a sergeant in the One Hundred and Thirtieth Illinois Regiment in the Civil war, and in later years a prominent member of the Grand Army of the Republic. He was one of the leading figures in the Republican party organization and for two terms was sheriff of Coles County. He was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Baptist Church. The mother of Senator Hamilton was born in Morgan County, Illinois, Her father Lowry Hoskins, was a native of Virginia, moved west to Kentucky and then to Illinois.
John R. Hamilton was educated in common schools and business college, for a short time was associated with his father on the farm, and then took up farming as an independent occupation. He was on the farm until 1888. For over forty years he has been active in county politics and has held the offices of supervisor, collector and circuit clerk. He was chosen clerk of the Circuit Court in 1888. He declined nomination for a second term in order to enter business as a wholesale and retail coal merchant. He established yards at both Charleston and Mattoon. For eight years he was engaged in other lines of business, but then returned to the commercial field, in which he has been most successful through a long period of years.
Senator Hamilton is a man of genial traits, arid both as a business man and public leader has won a high place in the affairs of Coles County. He has been a member of the Illinois State Senate for five terms, first elected from the Thirty-fourth District in 1912. He was reelected in 1916, in 1920, 1924 and 1928. During these five terms he has been a member of such important committees as agriculture, apportionment, appropriations, chairman of the committee on banks and building and loan associations, member of the civil service, corporations and municipalities, drainage, education, elections, executives, forestry, fish and game, industrial affairs, insurance, judiciary, license and miscellaneous, arid Lincoln Memorial committees. In the present Legislature he has been a member of the committees on military affairs, parks and playgrounds, public health, railways, highways and transportation, revenue, waterways and World's Fair. His outstanding work in the Legislature has been in behalf of road building and education.
Senator Hamilton is a past treasurer of the Knight Templar Commandery, a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason and Shriner, a past grand of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a past treasurer of the B. P. 0. Elks, member of the Knights of Pythias, Loyal Order of Moose, Improved Order of Red Men, Rotary Club, Country Club and Chamber of Commerce.
Senator Hamilton's first wife was Miss Kate Van Deren, of Charleston. She died January 17, 1917. Later he married Miss Ethel Bussinger, of Mattoon, daughter of William and Auracy (Welicuts) Bussinger. Her father, a native of Wood County, Ohio, came to Illinois in 1893. For over a quarter of a century he was a passenger conductor with the Illinois Central Railway. He died in 1913. He was a member of the Order of Railway Conductors, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and was a Presbyterian. Her mother was born at Marion, Indiana, and passed away in 1905.
Mrs. Hamilton is a graduate of the Mattoon High School and of the Eastern Illinois Teachers College at Charleston, and at the time of her marriage she was a teacher in high school. She is active in the social and club life of her home city, a member of the Woman's Reading Club, the Presbyterian Church, and has worked and spoken for the woman's organizations of the Republican party. ("ILLINOIS, The Heart of the Nation" by Hon. Edward F. Dunne, Volume IV, 1933, Transcribed by Kim Torp)