Charles P. Hammock, 72, former state legislator and Rizzo supporter

Hammock
Hammock
Posted: February 28, 2014

CHARLES HAMMOCK never cared much that his support of Frank Rizzo was not very popular in the black community.

He was on Rizzo's staff as deputy field director when the former mayor and police commissioner ran in the Democratic primary of 1983, seeking a third term as mayor.

Hammock was the most visible black person among Rizzo's campaign staff. Rizzo lost the primary to W. Wilson Goode, who went on to become Philadelphia's first black mayor in 1984.

Of his support for Rizzo, Hammock said at the time, "The best thing about supporting Frank Rizzo is that he is a compassionate man who has helped many people."

He had argued that Rizzo would be able to negotiate with national Democrats on behalf of Philadelphia. Wilson Goode, he said, "doesn't have the status, charisma or anything to negotiate on behalf of Philadelphia."

Charles Paul Hammock, who represented Philadelphia's 196th District in the state Legislature from 1973 to 1976, a lawyer and civic leader passionate about promoting causes of benefit to African-Americans, and an outstanding high school and college athlete, died Feb. 15. He was 72 and lived in Tioga.

Among his many causes, Hammock sought greater African-American influence in the Roman Catholic Church. He was the first president of the National Office of Black Catholics, and traveled to Vatican City in 1971 to urge Pope Paul VI to appoint a black bishop.

He was optimistic about the church's attitude toward black Catholics. "I think that there's been a concerted effort on the part of the American bishops as a whole to bring their thinking into focus on the pastoral concerns of the black community," he said.

Charles Hammock was born in Philadelphia to Charles and Mary Jenkins Hammock. The family lived in South Philadelphia and Charles went to Roman Catholic High School, where he was the 1958 Catholic champion in the 120-meter high hurdles. He eventually was inducted into the school's Sports Hall of Fame.

He received 14 scholarship offers and chose Villanova University. He ran track for the legendary Jumbo Elliott, and won the shuttle hurdle relay team championship in 1961. He earned a bachelor's degree in economics.

"It was during his time at Villanova that Charles learned firsthand about the devastating impact of racial inequality and the importance of being proactive to combat injustice," his family said.

He decided the best way to do this would be as a lawyer. He received his law degree from Howard University School of Law.

"Throughout the years, Charles' zeal for the social, political and economic transformation of African-Americans inspired him to continually give to others," his family said. "His gifts of charisma and eloquence, coupled with a powerful presence touched all those who were fortunate to call him co-laborer, brother and friend."

He is survived by a sister, Debra Hammock-Nocho.

Services: Funeral Mass 10 a.m. today at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 20th and Christian streets. Burial will be at Greenmount Cemetery.

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