James H. Hamlen, II


Obituary Notice

James H. Hamlen, II, businessman, pilot and quiet philanthropist, died at his home in Little Rock on February 15, 2004. He was born July 6, 1913, in Portland Maine, the older of the two children of James C. Hamlen, Jr. and Eleanor C. Downing Hamlen Mr. Hamlen attended Brooks School in Andover, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard University in 1937 and in the same year came to Little Rock to participate in the family business. After serving in World War II, he took graduate studies at Yale Forestry School, then returned to Little Rock, and resided there for the rest of his life. His primary interest for much of his life was the family cooperage and hardwood lumber business, J. H. Hamlen and Son, Inc. The business was begun by his great-grandfather, James H. Hamlen, in Portland in 1846. The family brought the company to Arkansas in 1892, where it operated from East 17th Street in Little Rock. In business, Mr. Hamlen was known for conservative, straightforward dealings and a passion for maintaining up-to-date production facilities. He sold the business to Weyerhaeuser Company in 1988 but he kept a keen interest in the lumber industry and maintained the friendships he had developed during his active years in business.

Mr. Hamlen joined the U. S. Army in 1941. He trained as a flight engineer and glider pilot, was commissioned a lst Lieutenant in the 366th Field Artillery Battalion, at Guam, and participated in action at Guam, Leyte, and Okinawa. Jim developed his love of flying as early as age 13, when an aviator, unbeknownst to his parents, let him fly a single-engine plane from the beach near his home. His service in the Army Air Corps confirmed his aviation interest and he enjoyed flying, and especially gliding, until well into his 80s.

In his latter years, he began the disposition of his estate to charities, many related to his early life. His gifts were accomplished without public notice, but he made significant contributions to Harvard University, Arkansas Children's Hospital, Maine Medical Center, Brooks School, the Mayo Clinic Foundation, and numerous charitable and cultural institutions in Little Rock and Portland. He established a scholarship fund at Harvard for the benefit of students from Arkansas and Maine. Mr. Hamlen was a member of the Country Club of Little Rock, the Arkansas Forestry Association, and the Cooperage Industry Association of America.

His sister, Mary D. Hamlen, died in 2001. Mr. Hamlen will be remembered fondly by his surviving friends, colleagues and the members of his family, his cousins and their descendants.

Notification of charitable memorials should be sent to Mr. Hamlen's long-time friend, Natalie Kirby, c/o her daughter, Dale Selakovich at 7209 Rockwood Road, Little Rock, Arkansas 72207.

A memorial service will be held at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock, at 11am on Wednesday, February 18.  Mr. Hamlen will be buried in Portland, Maine. Arrangements are by Ruebel Funeral Home.

Register Book