Col. West A. Hamilton was born in 1886 to John A. Hamilton, a missionary and social worker, and Julia West Hamilton, a prominent club woman and activist in the Washington D.C. area. Mrs. Hamilton socialized with some of the most well known African American intellectuals of her time, including Mary McLeod Bethune. It was the early experiences of his parents' work with their community that would influence Hamilton later in life.
Throughout his life Col. Hamilton's activities could be divided into three areas: the military, public service, and private business. As a child Hamilton earned his education through Washington's public school system. He graduated from Dunbar High School and went on to receive his teaching degree from Minor Teachers College. After working as a teacher for ten years, Hamilton enlisted with the National Guard for the first time in 1905. It would be the first of many reenlistments and would include World War I, riding with the 10th Cavalry Regiment Buffalo Soldiers near the Mexican border, and commanding the 366th Infantry in North Africa and Italy during World War II. In 1983 Col. Hamilton became an honorary Brigadier General at the age of 96 for his long and distinguished service with the U.S. Armed Forces.
While working as a teacher and joining the military, Hamilton was also an entrepreneur. Joining forces with his brother Percival Y. Hamilton, the Hamilton brothers went into the publishing business and produced their own newspaper called the Sentinel. They established the Hamilton Printing Company in 1910 and worked from two previous locations before permanently locating on the corner of 14th and U St from 1922 to the 1970s.
Outside his many careers Hamilton carried on his mother's altruistic pursuits and involved himself heavily in club work and civic organizations. He served on Washington D.C.'s Board of Education, the Board of Elections, the recreation board, as well as, the American Legion and the Masons. For many years his mother, Julia West Hamilton, served as President of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA and Col. Hamilton continued her work with the organization.
Col. Hamilton married twice but never had children. He died in 1985 just shy one year from his 100th birthday.