Robert H. Hinckley, a Utah automobile dealer and politician-administrator who served two presidents, died April 30, 1988, at his ranch in Eden, Weber County. He was 96.
Mr. Hinckley, perhaps best known in recent years as the founder of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, often joked during his lifetime that society had little respect for either of his professions.But the Fillmore native was honored many times for his contributions to society, including stints in the administrations of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.
Among the positions he held in the federal government were assistant administrator of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration; assistant administrator of the Works Progress Administration; member and chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Authority; assistant secretary of commerce for air; and director, Office of Contract Settlement.
He was presented the highest award bestowed by the Federal Aviation Administration, the Award for Extraordinary Service, in 1983 for his role in developing and administering the nationwide Civilian Pilot Training Program.
The program is credited with shortening World War II by as much as two years by preparing thousands of college students to fly before the war began, using the same standards required of military pilot cadets.
Mr. Hinckley's political career began in 1918, two years after he graduated from Brigham Young University. At 27, he was a member of the Utah House of Representatives and served from 1918 until 1920. He was Mt. Pleasant's first Democratic mayor, serving from 1924 to 1925.
Mr. Hinckley had a distinguished career as a businessman. He opened one of the nation's first Dodge dealerships in 1915, in Mt. Pleasant, just one year after the Dodge Brothers began building cars. In 1928 he moved the dealership to Ogden and, in 1955, opened a second dealership in Salt Lake City, Hinckley Dodge on State Street.
He was assistant to the president of the Sperry Corp. in New York City in 1942, where he developed new products for the war effort. His next business venture was helping to found what became the American Broadcasting Network. He was a vice president and director of ABC until his retirement in 1959 at age 68.
Other business interests included helping to found Utah Pacific Airways in 1928 and KALL Radio in 1945. He served on numerous boards, including First Security Corp., American Paper and Supply, and the Utah Auto Dealers Association.
After retirement, he established the Hinckley Institute of Politics in 1965 with a $250,000 endowment to, in his words, "arouse responsible involvement in partisan politics and to deepen citizen awareness of politics as an honorable and significant profession."
A lifelong Democrat, Mr. Hinckley believed that participation in party politics would reduce the threat from extremist groups on both the left and the right of the political spectrum.
The institute sponsors lectures at the U. and has brought such speakers as former President Gerald Ford and Vice President Hubert Humphrey to speak at the U. The institute also sponsors student internships.
Mr. Hinckley served four terms as a U. regent and was awarded an honorary doctorate of humanities by the U. in June 1973.
He did not forget his alma mater, BYU, which awarded him an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1964. He and three of his brothers established the Hinckley scholarship at BYU in 1954 in honor of their father, Edwin Smith Hinckley. For their efforts, the four brothers received the Brigham Young University Presidential Medal in 1985.
He also established the Abrelia Seely Hinckley scholarship at Weber State College in his wife's name as well as the John H. Seely and Robert H. Hinckley scholarships at Utah State University.
Among the many other honors Mr. Hinckley received in his lifetime were the B'nai B'rith Citizen of Achievement Award in 1967; the Brotherhood Award of the Utah Chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1977; and inductions into the Beehive Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Utah Auto Dealers Hall of Fame in 1987.
Mr. Hinckley's autobiography, "I'd Rather Be Lucky Than Rich," was published by Brigham Young University Press in 1977. He was born on June 8, 1891, in Fillmore and died on his ranch, the Garden of Eden, where he bred Arabian horses and Welsh ponies.
A public memorial service for Mr. Hinckley will be held in the Eden LDS Stake Center, 6450 E. 19th North, Eden, Weber County, at a time and date yet to be announced. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Hinckley Institute of Politics.