Hampton was born in 1948 in Chicago, Illinois. He grew up in Maywood, a suburb just to the west of the city. His parents moved north from Louisiand, and they both held jobs a the Agro Starch Company. As a youth, Hampton was gifted both in the classroom and on the athletic field. At Proviso East High School in Maywood, Hampton earned three varsity letters and won a Juinor Achievement Award. He graduated with honors in 1966.
He was an active member of the NAACP, hoping to achieve social change.While he was in the NAACP, the Black Panther Party started gaining national prominence. He joined the Illinois Chapter of the BPP in November of 1968.