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Henry Hampton, 1940-1998

By IDA Editorial Staff

A black-and-white portrait of Henry Hampton.

Known widely as the creator and executive producer of Eyes on the Prize, Henry Hampton was serving as Director of Broadcasting and Information, for the Unitarian Universalist Association, when in 1965 he participated in a civil rights march in Selma, Alabama. The experience so moved him that three years later he founded Blackside, a Boston-based company, whose productions would become some of the most significant documentary contributions of the last three decades.

Serving as Blackside's president, and chiefly responsible for film and TV concept development, marketing and corporate development, Hampton produced or was responsible for more than 60 major film and media projects, including several multiple film series for J. Walter Thompson, the National Institute for Mental Health and the U.S. Department of Commerce. His credits also include The Great Depression (PBS, 1993), Malcolm X: Make It Plain (The American Experience, 1994), America's War on Poverty (1995) and Breakthrough: The Changing Face of Science in America (1996).

Eyes on the Prize received numerous awards since its initial broadcast in 1987. The 14-hour PBS film series on America's civil rights movement was broad­ cast nationally in prime time and reached more than 20 million viewers, becoming one of the most highly acclaimed programs on television. The first six hours received a Gold Baton in the duPont-Columbia Awards; the second installment received a Silver Baton. Peabody Awards, Emmys®, an Academy Award® nomination (for Bridge to Freedom, 1965) and a 1997 IDA Award from IDA followed. Time magazine hailed the series as the "Best of the Decade."

Hampton received his B.A. degree in pre-med and English literature, from Washington University in St. Louis. Among the many awards he received are: the Loeb Fellowship, from Harvard University; the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union's Roger Baldwin Award; and fourteen honorary college degrees. In 1990, Hampton was named by President Bush as one of five Americans who had made outstanding contributions to the humanities, and he was awarded the Charles Frankel Prize for his achievements. His civic service involved the Museum of Afro-American History, the Boston Center for the Arts, the Revson Foundation and many others. He was a member of the Society of American Historians and in 1997 was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

He served for many years as member-at-large on the IDA Board of Directors, and in 1997 he received the IDA Career Achievement Award.

In early February, PBS will premiere his I'll Make Me a World. The six-hour series celebrates the extraordinary achievements of the African-American creative spirit in the 20th century, revealing how writers, dancers, visual artists, actors and musicians changed forever who we are and influenced what our culture would become.

Beyond his laudatory work as a producer of documentaries, Henry Hampton was a mentor to dozens of neophyte filmmakers who went on to successful media careers. For them, he is remembered as a gentle but firm counselor, whose attitude recognized the strong potential in others and whose positive outlook influenced all who were privileged to know him. To his family and his co­ workers, the IDA expresses its profound admiration for this giant of a man and our gratitude to have counted him among our own.