On February 25, 2021, the Duke University Libraries lost a longtime friend and cherished colleague. For many years J. Samuel Hammond was perhaps best known (or best heard) as Duke’s official carillonneur. He began playing the carillon in 1965 while an undergraduate at Duke and was eventually promoted to perform in an official capacity when he graduated three years later. For fifty straight years—one for every bell that hangs in the Chapel tower—Sam was Duke’s ringer-in-chief. In honor of a long and literally resounding record of service, Duke’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution in 2018 naming the carillon in his honor.
For those of us in the Libraries, Sam was also our co-worker—someone we saw, spoke to, and joked with almost every day. He worked here for close to four decades, starting out as Duke’s first music librarian in 1974, then becoming a rare book cataloger in 1986, a position he held until his retirement in 2012. To send him off with style, the Rubenstein Library purchased in his honor an extremely rare 1612 first edition of Angelo Rocca’s De campanis commentarius (A Commentary on Bells), one of the earliest studies of bells and bell ringing.
After he retired from the Libraries, Sam was given a carrel on the fourth floor of Bostock Library so that he could continue his personal research and a project editing the correspondence of Hugh James Rose, an Anglican clergyman of the early nineteenth century who was instrumental in initiating the Oxford Movement. Happily, that meant we had the pleasure of continuing to see Sam around the library on a regular basis. Until 2020, that is.
After he died last week, those of us in the Libraries began to share some of our fondest memories of Sam with each other. And since we are unable to gather and celebrate his life in person, we wanted to collect and share some of those reminiscences with you, the Duke community, virtually. Needless to say, he leaves behind many friends in Durham, at Duke, and around the country. If you’re reading this and you would like to contribute your own memory of Sam, please drop it in the comments section. We’ll be sure to include it.
Among his many endearing and old-fashioned characteristics, Sam was a great writer of short personal notes. He would always record the date in Roman numerals (even in emails!) and close with the Latin benediction “PAX.” The kiss of peace, which we now return to him. Rest now, Sam. The bells are ringing for you. PAX.
Tributes and Testimonials
I came to Duke in 1983 and Sam was my colleague from then on. He was so wise and well-read, but also possibly the most modest person I have known, also the most generous and thoughtful. Knowing how delighted they would be to see the world from the top of the Chapel, over the years he invited each of my then-young sons (who were practically raised at Duke) to take the thrilling ride up—and then gave them each (on their respective visits) the ultimate responsibility of marking 5 p.m. with the five “bongs” heard all over campus. Their memories of those special visits with Sam are still vivid.
I will also remember Sam’s kindness—knowing of my interest in tango, he regularly kept me updated on the appearances of the Lorena Guillén Tango Ensemble, including her memorable concerts on Jewish tango and her project “The Other Side of my Heart,” the stories of Latina immigrants. And I will always fondly recall the image of my encounters with Sam in the Libraries or on the quad, when he would bow and doff his hat, with a smile and a pseudo-formal greeting of “Dr. Jakubs!”—followed by a much more chatty personal conversation about so many things. Thank you, Sam. PAX.
—Deborah Jakubs, Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian and Vice Provost for Library Affairs
Soon after I began working at Duke in 2010, Sam offered to make me a scarf. I had no idea how broad his talents were, and I was touched by this personal gesture as I was trying to find my footing in the library. A beautiful blue scarf soon appeared in my inbox with a handwritten note. It was one of many notes I found in my box in the years before Sam retired, often calling something to my attention and occasionally letting me know I’d done something well. I valued his opinion and sought to uphold his high standards for the Duke Libraries. I will greatly miss greeting Sam in the library or on the quad. And I will wear my scarf with gratitude and seek to be worthy of it.
—Naomi L. Nelson, Associate University Librarian and Director, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
My children knew Sam Hammond as “Mr. Sam.” Over the course of thirteen years, we passed Mr. Sam on 751 as he walked to campus wearing his black coat and his signature hat. On our daily commute to school, the kids and I looked expectantly for Mr. Sam just as Academy Road intersected with Wrightwood Ave. If we were on time, the kids would wave and Mr. Sam would tip his hat.
Sam Hammond shared his musical gifts with our children. When my son was nine, Sam accompanied Micah as he learned the role of Amahl for Long Leaf Opera’s Amahl and the Night Visitors. For many years, Sam and Marie attended the children’s concerts—piano recitals at Durham School of the Arts and the Yiddish Song Festival at Beth El Synagogue. Mira remembers Sam jotting down the date of her event in a small leather-bound black book. This book, the suspenders, and Sam’s hat were part of what made Mr. Sam so enchanting.
One memory that the children both recollect: we bumped into Mr. Sam on the quad a few Decembers ago when he was en route to play the carillon. We chatted, and as he turned to tip his hat, he wished us a Happy Chanukah. When he arrived at the carillon, he played his traditional 5 o’clock bells and then moved from a hymn to a melody which both children recognized—they smiled and sang along as Sam played “I have a little dreidel.” We will continue to treasure these memories of our beloved Mr. Sam.
— Trudi Abel, Research Services Archivist, Rubenstein Library
Something he gave us all, day after day, was the ringing of the carillon as we were released from work at the end of the day: the ringing out of bronze bells high in the chapel’s belfry, signifying completion and freedom to one and all, regardless of race, rank or creed. And yet, with such power at his fingertips, it seemed that he treasured library work equally, its quiet spaces and detailed endeavors, requiring the most sterling patience and devotion. Over the pressed black and white attire of a gentleman he often wore a dark green work smock, navigating the halls and vestibules where I might meet him and say hello. He brought a delightful and unique formality to the most mundane encounters, investing them with a subtle radiance. I will miss him. He was like an ambassador from a better world.
— Mary Yordy, Senior Library Assistant, Conservation Services
My story is about Sam’s care of new parents. When I became a parent in the early-mid 2000s, Sam would bestow gifts of crocheted or knitted items for our babies that he presented in his humble, loving way. My memory is that he waited to give the gifts until we’d come back to work to take the opportunity to offer a few carefully chosen sympathetic and supportive words about surviving the experience of new parenthood. I still have the blanket he made for us.
— Laura Micham, Merle Hoffman Director, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture
Before my retirement in 2010 from what is now the Rubenstein Library, I had an office on the second floor that looked right onto the quad in front of Duke Chapel. This gave me a front row seat to Sam’s daily recitals. I often stayed longer than I needed, just to be able to sit back and enjoy the bells.
More than that though, my responsibilities in the library put all of the rare book and manuscript technical service operations under my supervision. This meant that Sam, as a rare book cataloger, was technically under my supervision. This was laughable, since Sam had more knowledge about rare book cataloging tucked into the hardened and muscular folds of one hand than almost anyone in the state of North Carolina! It did, however, afford me the pleasant excuse to meet with him periodically.
Some memories that stand out include hearing about his annual trek to the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where there was an annual gathering of carillon artists from around the country. Sam especially liked the atmosphere of Sewanee, which was a traditional old-style college, where upperclassmen were required to wear academic gowns to class. Given Sam’s singular (and easily recognizable from 100 yards away) style of dress, I often thought that he would have been more comfortable wearing his own academic gown.
After my own retirement, I was often on campus in the morning on my way to Wilson Gym and would run into Sam coming though the clock tower passage from Crowell Quad on his way to the library (where he kept a carrel after his retirement to volunteer his efforts to resolve lingering rare book cataloging issues). There was always a tip of the hat and a brief genial conversation on families, the weather and other pleasantries.
A couple of years ago I was at a retirement party at the Schwartz-Butters building for a Wilson/Card gym staff member. Somehow I ended up in conversation with David Cutcliffe, Duke’s football coach, and he asked me if I knew anything about a gentleman wearing a hat and usually carrying a bag that he would see walking along Academy Road as he would come into work in the morning. It didn’t take much elaboration to know he was talking about Sam Hammond. I spoke with him briefly about Sam and his work in the Chapel and the library. The very next time I encountered Sam, he told me that Coach Cutcliffe had pulled his car over to introduce himself and chat with Sam. I think this was the start of an interesting friendship. After Sam’s heart attack last summer, I managed indirectly to get word to the coach and I know that he immediately got in touch with Sam.
— Steve Hensen (Retired), Rubenstein Library
Sam was always gracious. He shared the carillon with alumni and friends. Whenever I invited someone for a special experience, Sam always enthralled. I will miss him and his gentleness. And the elevator rides to the top of Duke and his world.
— Tom Hadzor, Associate University Librarian for Development
When I started the University Archives in 1972, I wondered who this person I kept seeing around the building wearing a three-quarter-length coat as sort of a working uniform was. Then I noticed the variety of work stations he occupied. I got to know him as the carillonneur through my association with the Friends of the Chapel. I quickly discovered that whatever he was doing it was with thoroughness, integrity, passion, and with wit and a twinkle in his eye. Over the years, decades really, Sam became a trusted friend and confident who shared a love for the university and its history. He was unique. His role and contribution to Duke was unique. Such people have made the university what it is. His presence will be missed and all who knew Sam will miss him greatly.
—William E. King (Retired), University Archivist 1972-2002
Sam was always very kind to me. When I went to his office to review an item, we would have long chats, and he would show me all the wonderful things he was working on. Sam always took the time to say that he appreciated that I was here. That made me feel good. I appreciated his kindness, his sharp wit, and his willingness to help you with any question you had for him. Even after retirement he would make time to stop and chat if we ran into each other in the hallway. I will miss his presence greatly.
— Beth Doyle, Leona B. Carpenter Senior Conservator and Head, Conservation Services Department
I knew Sam primarily as a Rare Books Librarian when I worked in the library as staff member from 1993-2000. There was no one I’d rather give a curious old book to than Sam, just to see what he thought and how it connected to the thousands of others he had taken his glasses off to pore over; you can’t “Google” information like that. We had a special connection, as native Georgians and as musicians, and I learned a great deal about rare books and collegiality from him. PAX, SH, from GB 26 II.
— Gary R. Boye, Erneston Music Library, Appalachian State University
I worked and socialized with Sam Hammond throughout our long careers in the Duke University Libraries. He played the organ at St. Joseph’s Episcopal Church for my marriage with Catherine Blue, a Duke graduate. He was a quintessential gentleman, highly cultured, and someone with whom one could discuss anything with ease, understanding, and mirth. When I had the privilege of hearing the first concert on the great Fisk organ at the new Catholic Cathedral in Raleigh, it was Sam who played the carillon afterwards. Sam was a monarchist, and we had reasons to explore that culture joyfully. He inserted a special piece of music for me on the Duke Carillon after my retirement. He was always the same.
— William Rector Erwin, Jr. (Retired), Manuscript Cataloger and Reference Librarian, Manuscript Department, 1960-1999
I’d just started at Duke in July 2018. I can’t remember when it was exactly but in my first few days but Sam came in and came to my station. He said, “You’re new here!” and I said “Yes sir, I just got here from Davidson College.” He said that he was sure I’d do a good job and that he was glad to have me as part of the Duke community. He didn’t know this but I was a total ball of anxiety. Davidson was a small liberal arts college and I’d come here to work for a behemoth of an institution. That simple act of kindness meant more to me than he knew, but that was just Sam, doing good deeds wherever he went.
— Jeremy Martin, Reserves Coordinator
Sam always had a smile on his face; his laughter was a happy chuckle.
— Catherine Leonardi (Retired), Music Cataloger
When I became a rare book cataloger, Sam Hammond became one of my mentors, always treating me with courtly kindness and giving sound advice. I especially enjoyed opportunities to share our mutual admiration of Queen Elizabeth II. I respected Sam’s firm dignity and appreciated his gentle courtesy toward all our Special Collections colleagues, as well as the library’s patrons and visitors.
—Nixie Miller (Retired), Rubenstein Library
Sam was a steady presence in the library. Walking through Perkins, I’d run into him several times a week. He’d tip his hat, smile and share a hello. Every. Single. Time. For a while, I didn’t know who he was or how he knew me. Was he an alum who loved the library? A professor that I had somehow forgotten I met or knew? Nope – just a gentle man who exuded the warmth of human kindness.
— Shawn J. Miller, Director, Duke Learning Innovation
Before he retired as carillonneur, I often encountered Sam on my after-work walk to my car as he was leaving the Chapel after playing the carillon that day. He would always smile and tip his hat to me. Occasionally, we would stop and chat for a few minutes if either of us had recently heard from a mutual friend who used to be a faculty member in the Divinity School. He will be sorely missed!
—Jim Coble (Retired), Information Technology Services, Duke Libraries
I succeeded Sam as Music Librarian, and I remember walking into his former office in the Biddle Building in early January of 1987, ready to start my new job. The office was left in immaculate order for the next person. I was so grateful for that, and it helped me to feel that I had come to the right place. Over the years until I retired in 2005, I conferred with Sam about a number of things, not the least of which was his invitation to my family and myself to visit him in the upper room of the carillon tower while he held forth at the special console. I’ll always associate Sam with the grand Chapel bells, spreading their wonderful tones and overtones over the university landscape and issuing an invitation to all to pause and listen.
— John Druesedow (Retired), Music Librarian, 1987–2005
I worked with Sam for many years and he was always the most pleasant person that you ever wanted to meet. Always willing to assist you with your needs and I loved to hear him laugh. My deepest condolences to his family.
— Beverly Mills (Retired), Perkins Library Serials Department
I had the pleasure of meeting Sam in the early days of my employment in the library (mid-1970s) and I have nothing but fond memories of him. Sam ALWAYS exhibited a pleasant disposition, cheerful attitude, and respectful demeanor to me, from day one until the last time I saw him just before I retired almost 3 years ago. I’ll always remember seeing him walking to campus from his home each morning, and upon arriving to campus, stopping to salute the James B. Duke statue in the middle of the quad in front of the Chapel before continuing his journey into the library. At precisely 5:00 p.m. each day, Sam would play the bells from the top of the Chapel, and I looked forward to listening to the tunes he played each day when I left work to return to my car to head home, sometimes humming along to the tunes I was familiar with. Years ago, Sam even gave myself and some other library employees a personal tour of the top of the Chapel where the bells are located and demonstrated to us how he played them. Finally, I will always remember Sam’s hearty and joyous laughter and his gentlemanly demeanor. I’m very honored to have known him and will always treasure these memories of him.
—Iris Turrentine (Retired), Library Human Resources
In 2000, when I moved from the Bingham Center to a generalist position in what is now the Rubenstein Library, Sam allowed me to sit in on his many library instruction classes so that I could become more familiar with our early manuscript and rare print collections. His deep knowledge of the history of religion and printing, along with his ability to communicate clearly made him extremely effective with undergraduate and graduate classes. Even more marvelous was his rapport with the many elementary, middle school and high school students who came to see our treasures on display in the Biddle Rare Book Room. Always dignified, but with an impish twinkle in his eye, Sam kept every one of those young people absolutely rapt as he explained how papyrus was made or how one might correct an error written on vellum. He addressed them with calm respect and they responded by listening intently, asking excellent questions, and behaving with impeccable manners. It strikes me now that Sam was the Mr. Rogers of the Rubenstein Library. He brought kindness and empathy to every encounter.
— Elizabeth Dunn, Research Services Librarian, Rubenstein Library
When I was in grad school in 1987, studying histories of Judaism and Christianity and art, I had a brief job working chiefly with Samuel Hammond. We selected, described, and presented Jewish art publications, including but not limited to Passover Haggadah books from “The Abram & Frances Pascher Kanof Collection of Jewish Art, Archaeology, and Symbolism” donations. It was a pleasure working with Sam, and if I may say so, the display was rather fine. In later years, it was always good to see him on campus and to hear his music.
— Stephen Goranson, Stacks Maintenance Assistant
Before my retirement, I worked with Sam for several years in what is now the Rubenstein Library.
One day I was walking with Sam on the sidewalk toward the West Campus Union Building. About every third person we encountered knew Sam and they spoke warmly to each other. I did not recognize any of them. I realized then that he knew a broad swath of people outside the library.
Sam did not like what became the norm when we began to hold retirement receptions and other events in the Rare Book Room where food and drink were served. He absolutely would not attend any of these events, for he was concerned that damage would be done to the rare books. One of the reasons Linda McCurdy (whom Sam called Dr. Linda) and I had our joint retirement reception in Perkins Library rather than in the Rare Book Room was so Sam could attend. And he did. I have photographs!
One day Sam and I spoke about how much we admired former President Jimmy Carter. I learned that Sam grew up in Americus, Georgia, not far from Plains. Further, he said his mother used to cut Jimmy Carter’s hair! She knew the Carter family well and had eaten dinner in their home. Imagine my surprise at that.
Sam was a true original and unique individual. And modest to a fault.
When my mother died in 2002, Sam sent me a handwritten sympathy note. In it, he included the following anonymous poem that he said was read at the Queen Mother’s funeral. After Sam’s passing, I reread it and thought about Sam.
You can shed tears that she is gone
or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back
or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
or you can be full of the love you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she’s gone
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind be empty and turn your back
or you can do what she’d want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on
— Janie Morris (Retired), Rubenstein Library
I’m at a loss for words! Sam and I kept in touch even in his/my retirement! He brought peanuts from Georgia to me and Peach Pie. In return, she prepared chicken salad and deviled eggs for him (and Marie). We picked fresh strawberries for him, too! He will be missed. Of course Sam enjoyed Peach Pie’s infamous banana pudding! I enjoyed my many talks/walks with Sam. He gave me a personal tour of the “bells” as he did my granddaughter, Makenzie. She sat beside him while he played. Afterwards he took her to the roof of the chapel. Sheer excitement!
— Nelda Webb (Retired), Administrative Assistant to the Director, Rubenstein Library
I retired from the library 11 years ago but have fond memories of Sam. I can still hear his voice from his always friendly greetings. There was a time when my children were young and came to work with me. Sam didn’t usually take requests for “songs” but was pleasantly surprised when we left the office that afternoon and my daughter’s request was being played on the bells. Can’t recall what the song was, but felt very fortunate to have our request granted.
— Rose Bornes (Retired), Accounting Office, Duke Libraries
I remember Sam as a kindly, gracious gentleman — emphasis on gentleman — with a fine ability to appreciate and laugh at the absurdities of life. He was an extremely talented musician whose daily playing of the carillon brought a certain stability and peace to the campus. It was a blessing to have had him as a colleague in Perkins Library.
— Joline R. Perkins (Retired), Reference Department, Perkins Library
I so much enjoyed seeing Sam during the day. Always the wave and that nod, usually a chuckle—even if we just said “Hello” to each other. Gentle and generous. The evening after Dean Smith died, I choked up when I heard him play UNC’s fight song on the carillon. That wasn’t the only time his choice of music made me tear up.
I treasure my memory of going up into the tower of Duke Chapel to watch him play. Feet and fists striking keys, and Sam transported, it was a treat. Thank you, Sam.
— Winston Atkins (Retired), Preservation Librarian
When I first started at Duke in Special Collections, I worked down the hall from Sam. Princess Diana had recently died, and Sam wore a black arm band for a month in honor of her. He did the same thing when the Queen Mother died. His portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth in his office brought a regal air to a regal man.
Sam was always saying dry comments as quiet asides in staff meetings, and making anyone laugh who could hear them. His eyes really twinkled, and his gentle laughter always brought us to a feeling of good humor no matter the topic.
I served many Saturday reference shifts with Sam. No matter the question, Sam was able to help the researcher in their work by highlighting new resources or redirecting their attention to a newly cataloged book (often still in his office, that he would bring down for them to review). In the seven dark and winding floors of the stacks at that time, I was always relieved to see Sam as my partner, for I knew that whatever was requested Sam would be able to find it, walking slowly and with purpose.
When Sam did instruction for visiting school students about the rare book collection, he would provide a follow up instruction session for interested staff members. He would go over some of the most interesting treasures, small and large, valuable and invaluable because of his interest. You always learned something new from Sam, no matter how long you’d been at the library.
Sam was so kind, and asked about your family, and how you were doing. He lived his faith, and led with love in his interactions with us in the library and the university community, writ large. One year I told him it was my Dad’s birthday and that he had been in the Navy, and that evening in the selection for the chimes he included the Navy Hymn – a subdued nod to our conversation and my dad. These unexpected and frequent kindnesses of Sam’s that stay with me, and underlie the deep feeling of grief and loss for his quiet compassion, tender wit, and patience.
—Lynn Eaton, Director, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University
I met Sam when he was the head of the Music Library. I worked in Collection Development with Florence Blakely and was included in her meetings with Sam to discuss issues relating to acquisitions made possible via a Duke Endowment grant money and other issues relating to the Music Library. Florence had a high respect for Sam’s decisions. It was delightful to converse with Sam. The meetings continued when he became Rare Book Librarian. The topic most discussed related to acquisitions of often expensive titles or collections.
It was always delightful to converse with Sam. I always enjoyed his playing the carillon every afternoon. Sam will be missed by many people.
— Ginny Gilbert (Retired), Perkins Library
I retired in 2013 from interlibrary loan. Before that I had been in photo services for some number of years as head of that department. I had worked with Sam the entire time I was at the library. For me that was 33 years. Sam was a great friend to me. He was always coming in and telling me how things were going and telling me how good I looked, when I knew he was lying. We had an agreement. Each year near graduation he would take my senior students up into the tower to chime the hour. This was a special thing for my students because when hired, they stayed with me all four years and it was something that Sam and I could give them no one else could. I really appreciated Sam doing that as a special gift for my student workers. Not only to my students, but one time he also took me up in the tower to chime the hour. I will never forget how nervous I was and how calm he was. On many occasions Sam would come through the office and ask what I wished to hear played that day. A great friend, a devoted employee, a wonderful man—not enough words to describe Sam Hammond.
— Glenda Lacoste (Retired), Interlibrary Loan, Perkins Library
Sam Hammond was a beloved colleague and a Duke University institution. Although he retired from librarianship some years ago, he continued to come to campus each day to study in his carrel and play the carillon. I can’t count the number of times I passed Sam in the library or on the quad, with him offering a tip of his hat and a pithy bon mot. The five o’clock carillon is such a part of the fabric at Duke that many people don’t realize that there is a person high in the tower. Over the years, Sam gave the University Archives the logs of what songs were played each day, as well as other information he gathered about the Carillon. My colleagues and I in University Archives treasure these materials, which document each day at Duke going back decades. They have already been used by students in research.
Sam was unfailingly generous, and graciously welcomed guests to the Chapel tower to see the carillon itself. A couple of years ago, a group of students researched the laborers who built West Campus. Sam escorted the students and some University Archives staff up to the tower, so the students could see the details of the building close up. We looked out over Duke, and Durham beyond, seeing the stunning beauty–and terrifying height–that the workers who built the tower must have seen. He showed us his Carillon room, with its keyboard and its practice keyboard. A framed photograph of a young Queen Elizabeth was among the decor. At 5 o’clock, Sam began playing the carillon, and we stood beneath the 49 bells listening to him play. It gave us a rare opportunity to appreciate the beauty that surrounded us, and the majesty of the music that rang out from the tower.
I will miss Sam, his humor, his knowledge, his music, his friendship. Long may the carillon ring, reminding us each day of the many ways Sam enriched our lives.
—Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist