This trail-blazing classic TV actor grew up flying planes with her dad

She also successfully defended herself in court against litigious press agents after her own lawyer said she "didn’t have a chance."

The Everett Collection

Not many TV Guide interviews start with discussions of going to the moon, but Kim Hamilton’s 1963 profile makes sure to mention her high-flying ambitions right away. Outer space wasn’t as lofty a goal for Hamilton as it would be for most women in 1963. After all, she had already mastered flying planes.

“I like to be up high,” she told the magazine. “That’s why I learned to fly—so I could fly a missile to the moon when the time came. I’ve given up the moon, but my first solo flight in a plane, when I was up there by myself, was the freest moment I’ve ever known.”

Hamilton’s father was a flight instructor, and she was determined to learn everything she could from him to be able to soar above the clouds.

One of ten children, Hamilton married while still in high school, had two children of her own and got divorced by the time she was 19. Her son had spinal meningitis and died at just two years old. “I was in the hospital for five months after that with what we thought was a heart condition. It turned out to be all psychosomatic.”

Her tragic experiences informed her acting with a nuance and depth that few other performers had at her age. Her time in the hospital “was the experience I drew on for the part in Ben Casey,” she said. In the dramatic and unflinching Sixties medical drama, Hamilton played a woman with schizophrenia, a part originally written for a white actor.

Hamilton won many other trailblazing roles, playing the mother of a child with high hopes for a boxer in the Twilight Zone episode “The Big Tall Wish” and Helen Robinson, wife of Atticus Finch’s client Tom Robinson, in To Kill a Mockingbird. She also starred with Harry Belafonte in the 1959 noir Odds Against Tomorrow and was the only African-American actor to appear in a speaking role on Leave it to Beaver.

While still in the early years of her career, Hamilton’s former press agents took her to court, alleging she owed $75 – hundreds of dollars in today’s money. “My own lawyer said I didn’t have a chance,” she recalled. But having considered law school before going into show business, Hamilton decided to represent herself.

She learned what she needed to from law books and felt confident in court. As she told TV Guiode, “I decided to use my experience as an actor and improvise.” Her three-hour testimony won the case. 

Hamilton’s career continued for decades, stretching into the 2000s before her death in 2013. Though she never broke out as a household name or made it to the moon, she blazed a trail – both in the air and on the ground.

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Auntiekk 13 days ago
She also appeared in a couple of episodes of Sanford and Son. One episode she was selling household products door to door and Fred decided to have her come back for dinner & a date. (Even though he was engaged to Donna)
In another episode, she played an 'older woman' that was dating Lamont...Fred's son.
She was always an attractive, classy actress.
Tresix 15 days ago
I remember she died the night Svengoolie had his original screening of “The Wasp Woman”. Very bizarre coincidence!
F5Twitster 17 days ago
"[Hamilton] learned what she needed to from law books and felt confident in court. As she told TV Guiode, 'I decided to use my experience as an actor and improvise.' Her three-hour testimony won the case."

Proofread.
David 17 days ago
She also played the maid in Leave it to Beaver when Wally and Eddie are valets.
Somewhat demeaning to see her in the background as the "Servant"
I'm watching that Beaver episode right now but she's not just in the background , she plays a character and has a really well written conversation with Eddy Haskell.
Wiseguy David 17 days ago
Although there were no specifics, her appearance on Leave It to Beaver was mentioned.
tootsieg 18 days ago
Kim Hamilton was ahead of her time. Very interesting read.
rstuv 18 days ago
She was the first Helen Willis, on All in the Family. When The Jeffersons series started, Roxie Roker took over the role.
retro6 rstuv 16 days ago
She also appeared in an episode of The Jeffersons as Louise’s wealthy childhood friend.
wanderer2575 18 days ago
No mention of her marriage to Werner Klemperer (best known as Col. Klink on "Hogan's Heroes"). They were married for only a few years before his death, but had dated for about 20 years.
PulsarStargrave 19 days ago
SVENGOOLIE could have told you a little about Ms.Hamilton because she played "Young Malla" in THE LEECH WOMAN and was the only African American to have a speaking role on Leave It To Beaver! Kim was also one of the earliest Afro actors to appear on DAYS OF OUR LIVES! Another MeTV trivia bit: She dated WERNER "Col. Klink" KLEMPERER for 20 years before marrying him. I didn't know she was a pilot so that's new info for me, Thanks
WordsmithWorks 19 days ago
Another great deep dive about a lesser-known actor. Keep it up, MeTV!
Andybandit 19 days ago
Cool story. Even though I never heard of her. She looks like she was in a lot of different shows. It is nice she knows how she know to fly a plane.
LoveMETV22 19 days ago
Interesting story. Kim Hamilton had appeared in other MeTV programs in addition to those mentioned.
My Three Sons, Adam-12, Mannix and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and In the Heat of the Night.
Her career in TV spanned 1955- 2008.
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It's cool to see these actors in a new light after reading one of these articles.
Particularly interesting, when (sometimes, not always) acting can be seen as a frivolous occupation. And yet these people are so much more accomplished than what they're required to do on television.

MeTV may have started this website with an eye on "data-mining" but they have provided so much more enrichment regarding entertainment. Google picked one of my "feeds" coming directly from the MeTV Stories, and I'm glad others are being opened to them. Yeah, I know it's all about algorithms, but I'm glad the subject is an addition to positive, neutral topics!
...and GOOD TIMES! As a kid I always thought of her as the "The Pretty Lady" because I never knew her name; she usually played "classy" characters while JAYNE KENNEDY and LOLA FALANA handled the "sexy" roles!
Anjil PulsarStargrave 17 days ago
Ms Hamilton and Jayne Kennedy were in a movie together called BODY AND SOUL
harlow1313 19 days ago
Hamilton was certainly a complex and interesting person. It is interesting to consider the obstacles a black woman faced in those years.

The movie version of "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a fantastic representation of the great novel. No human being should miss either.
LoveMETV22 harlow1313 18 days ago
Jmo, another good read and watch " To Sir with Love".
Mirramanee harlow1313 17 days ago
To Kill a Mockingbird is my favoritest movie of all time and it is one of the few movies that actually follows the novel (also my most favorite book of all time). The movie (of necessity) did not cover every single event in the book, but it took the most important parts and the dialog is almost word for word. Nowadays, how many movies can you say that about? Sometimes, it seems that the only thing a movie takes from the original literary source is just the name! It is well worth watching and also well worth reading.
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