Hometown boy Howard Hamilton, best known as the businessman who owned the Palm Pavilion, died Friday, Feb. 24.
Hamilton was a graduate of Clearwater High, where he was part of two undefeated football teams. He went to what was known as St. Petersburg Junior College at the time before earning an engineering degree at Georgia Tech.
When he moved back to Florida, he started building homes. Then he went to work at GE using his engineering degree. He worked there about five years before buying the Palm Pavilion in 1964 from the man who owned it 42 years.
“I quit the engineering job and stayed over there,” Hamilton said in an interview for an oral history project the city started a few years ago. Many long time residents shared their stories about how Clearwater developed including Hamilton.
“It was just a meeting place as it were,” Hamilton said. “It grew from a minimum snack bar to a full restaurant that it is today in a period of years just changing along the way.”
The beachfront restaurant is essentially the same size, but in the early days there was seating for about 20; now there is room for about 350. For the most part, patrons bought food and would sit outside on a bench and eat. It was also the place to get a bathing suit.
"When you think of Clearwater Beach, you think Palm Pavillion and the Hamiltons,” Kathy Barber Herndon wrote on Hamilton’s guestbook. “Howard always had a smile for my six children while serving up their corndogs.”
Survivors include his wife of 58 years, Jean; sons, Ken, Dale, Hoyt, Wade; brothers, James P. and Jay M. Hamilton; grandchildren, Kimberlee, Scott, Andrew, Bradley, Dalton, and Shea.
Family will receive friends from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Moss Feaster Funeral Home, Belcher Chapel. A memorial service is at 11 a.m. Thursday at First United Methodist Church, 411 Turner St. Memorial donations may be made to a charity of your choice.