Each day at 5 p.m. the bells at Duke Chapel chime to signal the end of another academic day. For 50 years and through six Duke presidents, J. Samuel Hammond was the man behind those bells — the university’s carillonneur.

In 2018, Hammond hung up those bells, retiring from a job he first became intrigued by as a freshman at Duke when a student carillonneur introduced him to it.

“John (Simpson) invited me to see the carillon (of which I knew nothing), and in response to my intrigued interest in such an unusual instrument and in a potential opportunity of being of service to the university, kindly provided me beginning instruction and, ultimately, the opportunity to play,” Hammond told Duke Today in a 2018 interview.

Sam Hammond, Duke University carillonneur,  plays the carillon in Duke Chapel from a small room located just below the bells high in the chapel tower. He started playing in 1965 as a Duke sophomore and has been on the job ever since.

Hammond was promoted to chapel carillonneur in 1968 and then university carillonneur in 1986.

In addition to playing at the end of each day, he also played for the chapel’s Sunday worship services, university ceremonies and at some funerals. But it wasn’t his sole passion. Hammond earned two master’s degrees in library science and theological studies and worked for 41 years as a music librarian in Duke’s Rare Book Room and other departments.

When he retired in 2018, he was named university carillonneur emeritus, and the carillon was named in his honor. Hammond died in February 2021 at the age of 73.

At the time of his death, the Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery, dean of Duke University Chapel, said: “It is fitting that Sam made music in the tower because he was a towering human being, full of grace, charm, humility, dignity, wisdom and faith.”