Nancy Hawk grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia and met her future husband, John C. Hawk, a fellow medical student at the University of Virginia. They moved to Charleston in 1951 and raised six girls and three boys over the next 20 years. A busy mother, she was also active with First Scots Presbyterian Church, Charleston Civic Ballet, Charleston Opera Company, the Christian Family Y and H.E.L.P. In 1964, She founded Miss Mason’s School in the basement of her family home.
After the youngest of her children left for college, Hawk earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of Charleston and a law degree from USC Law School. This decision only served to enhance her community and political activism. She was a founding board member of the Lowcountry Land Trust and spearheaded efforts to save many historic buildings, preserve the skyline and minimize traffic impact on the peninsula. She led efforts to make the Charles Pinckney National Historic site park of the National Park Service and was instrumental in founding the American College of the Building Arts. In 1993, Hawk was awarded the Order of the Palmetto; in 1996 she was inducted into the Charleston Federation of Women’s Clubs Hall of Fame; and in 2006, she was awarded the Three Sisters Award by the Committee to Save the City. In 1989, the South Carolina Chapter of American Mothers selected Nancy Hawk as “South Carolina Mother of the Year,” and she was subsequently selected U.S. Mother of the Year. She also served as the national president of American Mothers from 1997-1999.