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John Hammerslough, a fixture in Weston civic community, dies at 84

John Hammerslough

John C. Hammerslough, a fixture in Weston’s civic community for half a century, died on Jan. 2 after a brief illness.  He was 84 years old and had lived in Weston with his wife Nancy since 1959.

Over the years, Mr. Hammerslough served in myriad civic and political roles.  At one point or another he was a member of Weston’s Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance, the Police Commission, among other roles, and was active in local, state and national political campaigns.  Along with his wife, he was named “Democrat of the Year” in 2009 by the Democratic Town Committee, and the town of Weston proclaimed May 11, 2009, as “John and Nancy Hammerslough Day.”

Mr. Hammerslough was a pioneer in the emerging field of computer-driven analysis of financial securities. His role as director of computer research at Shields & Co. was unusual enough at the time that The New York Times profiled him and “his electronic computer” in June 1967.  The computer, the article noted, “is no bigger than an office desk.”

John Hammerslough was born in New York City in 1928, the son of Charles R. Hammerslough, a clothier and sometime theatrical producer, and the former Sylvia Rittenberg. He attended the Bronx School of Science and the Taft School, and graduated from Brown University.

After college, he entered the army and served in the Korean War, first as an infantryman and later as a public information officer. The experience spurred him in later years to speak out against American involvement in Vietnam and, more recently, against the invasion of Iraq.

Although Mr. Hammerslough was involved in the financial securities business for nearly half a century, he did not immediately go to work on Wall Street as a young man. Rather, his experience as a writer and audio producer for the army during the Korean War led him to join CBS as part of its fledgling television news operation.

After a stint in the news business, he returned to school to do post-graduate work in mathematics at New York University, which led him to Wall Street, where his specialty was the use of computer analysis for valuing securities. His group at Shields & Co. operated the first computer at a Wall Street firm dedicated solely to investment research. He continued to focus on computer-assisted financial research through the 1970s.

Of his work, Mr. Hammerslough told the New York Times in 1967: “The computer is suggestive rather than dictatorial. It’s loaded with technique, but it has no judgment.  The machine, therefore, represents an extension of our intelligence.”

Since the early 1980s, Mr. Hammerslough worked as a financial expert in litigation support, providing advice and testimony in more than 1,000 matters involving securities and alleged violations of securities law.

A devoted Westonite, he was a familiar figure not only at Town Hall but also at the town center, where he could be seen most mornings drinking coffee with friends and talking politics and sports, at holiday parades and celebrations, where he sold ice cream and handed out buttons for the Democratic Party, and along the roads near his home, where he enjoyed walking his beloved dog.

Along with his wife of 55 years, Mr. Hammerslough is survived by a son, Charles, of Chicago, a daughter, Jane, of Brooklyn, and four grandchildren.

A memorial reception is planned for Sunday, January 13, at 4 pm, at Cobbs Mill Inn.

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