Arlivia Elaine-Smith Hamlin was born in Emmanuel County, Stilmore Georgia on March 25, 1931 to Reverend Morris C. Smith and Sally Brown Smith. She was the youngest of ten children. Her mother, Sally, died when she was only six and, as a result, was raised by her father and older siblings. Reverend Smith, the grandson of a white slave-owner, was a large property owner with holdings that included a general store with a gas station, and several houses surrounding his residence. Nurtured by a prosperous family, Arlivia graduated from High School in 1947, and in 1950 was admitted to Fort Valley State College (now University) where, in addition to pursuing her major in Elementary Education, worked in the home of Dr. Blanchette, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.
In 1951 Arlivia met Lewis Hamlin, Jr., and they later married. By the time of their graduation in 1956, Lewis and Arlivia had two children and another on the way. They traveled from county to county in search of teaching positions; Blackshear and Waycross, Georgia (1956-59); Orlando and Winter Park, Florida (1960-61); Savannah, Georgia (1961), and in between stops welcomed their fourth child.
Husband, Lewis, in 1961, accepted an invitation from James Brown to direct his band. After his departure, Arlivia raised their four children through part-time teaching and by selling Avon door-to-door oftentimes strolling with her children down Savannah's dark, dirt roads. She also supplemented what was lacking by planting and maintaining a substantial garden, and could often be seen bending over in her black garden pants planting and harvesting her crop which included corn, collards, green beans, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.
In 1964, Lewis ended his tour with Brown relocating the family to Baltimore, Md., purchasing a modest house in Northwest Baltimore. Lewis taught music at Crownsville State Hospital while Arlivia pursued and received her MA degree in Special Education from Baltimore's Loyola University.
Mrs. Hamlin worked tirelessly to change the stigma attached to students enrolled in "Special Education" classes. In 1977, the family moved to Baltimore, County where Hamlin continued to not only teach but reassess students' placement in Special Education in Baltimore City Public Schools. Retiring in 1995, Arlivia Hamlin's forty-year tenure as an advocate and educator was devoted to identifying and addressing the needs of "intellectually challenged," and "differently abled" students.
In addition to her love for teaching, Arlivia or "Sister Hamlin," as she was affectionately called by members of the Pitcher Street/Central Church of Christ in Baltimore, was a faithful member for
nearly forty years having served as Librarian, Superintendent of the Sunday School and Education, Choir member, and Chief Caterer/Director of the Food Committee. According to Humphrey Foutz, former minister (deceased), she had the "golden spoon," so much so that she established her own catering business, "Elaine's Catering." In honor of Sister Hamlin's entrepreneurial spirit and extraordinary "cooking skills," the Livian Center also provides instruction in nutrition and recipe creation/collection.
On February 2, 2002, Arlivia Elaine Smith-Hamlin, our "Westchester Lady," died of a pulmonary embolism caused by complications associated with multiple myeloma. She is buried alongside her husband of over thirty-eight years, Lewis Hamlin Jr., in Woodlawn Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland: facing the natural landscape's setting sun. We are eternally grateful and forever reminded of her love, devotion, and service to humankind.