Any list of Robert H. Hinckley's accomplishments is tremendously impressive. Whatever he tried, he did remarkably well, whether it was raising horses, selling cars, building a broadcast empire, or advising U.S. presidents.
Yet Hinckley, who died at his Weber County ranch this past week at age 96, leaves a legacy that involves far more than personal success. He believed wholeheartedly in democracy and in the strength that comes from ordinary people taking part in government.His own life was an example. He served for years, often at considerable sacrifice, in various levels of government, from small town mayor to the halls of power in Washington to education in Utah.
His Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah, established with a financial grant in 1965, was aimed at helping people to see politics as an honorable profession and to encourage dialogue. Every year, the institute's lectures and meetings bring together students, politicians, and observers of the political scene. It will remain as a living monument.
In 1915, while still a student at Brigham Young University, he opened one of the first Dodge dealerships in the nation in Mt. Pleasant. His subsequent dealerships prospered, and while he made a national reputation for himself in other fields, he kept his hand in the auto business.
He helped found Pacific Airways in 1928, KALL radio in 1945, and the American Broadcasting Co. in New York, serving as ABC vice president until his retirement in 1959.
In Washington, he served with various agencies under presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. These posts included state and regional director for the Depression-era Federal Emergency Relief Administration, and assistant administrator for the Works Progress Administration, and finally as chief of the Civil Aeronautics Authority, the forerunner of the present FAA. His success was legendary.
Honors and awards poured in during his long and productive life, not only in business, politics, and government, but in recognition of a warm and witty and caring human being. Utah, and the nation as well, have been beneficiaries of the services of a great and good man.