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Dr. James H. Hinson, Jr. went to be with the Lord on January 25, 2022, at the age of 96 in Tallahassee, Florida. A follower of Christ, loving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, friend, professional educator, coach and mentor, Jim’s legacy is one of a life well lived. Jim was a man of monumental character, compassion, and humility. He was a role model to many, a friend to all, and he left a positive impact on everything he did.
Born in Dayton, Tennessee on April 3, 1925, “Jimmy” was the oldest child of Mary Baird Hinson and James H. Hinson, Sr. He grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee and played basketball and baseball throughout his youth. After Jim’s family moved to Atlanta, he was drafted to serve in World War II as an 18-year-old high school senior and had to apply for a deferment to complete his high school diploma from Atlanta’s Tech High. He served in the U.S. Army in the 10th Armored Division and was immediately deployed to Europe. His unit landed on the beaches of Normandy the day after D-Day only because of a delay of their munitions ship having to dodge German U-boats. They saw extensive action with Patton’s 3rd Army all along the front prior to the Battle of the Bulge. Jim received the Bronze Star Medal for Bravery for shooting down a German fighter plane that was attacking a 24- vehicle convoy unit returning from R & R to the front. As the Germans were finally retreating, Jim was in the lead tank that liberated the Dachau concentration camp. He witnessed a warehouse with row after row of piles of naked, malnourished dead bodies that the Germans had not had time to bury or cremate. This memory never left him, and he spoke to many school classes at every opportunity to describe the reality of the Holocaust.
While in the service, Jim made the Division All-Star Baseball Team, and as the war was coming to an end, his team entertained the troops playing baseball all over Europe, concluding with an exhibition game against the NY Yankees. He was 1 for 3 in the game, and Jim was very fond of saying he had a lifetime batting average against the Yankees of .333.
After the war, Jim attended Oglethorpe University, where he graduated with honors with an undergraduate degree in Political Science, followed by Emory University for his master’s degree in Economics and the University of Georgia for his doctorate in Educational Administration. On his first day at Oglethorpe University, Jim met the love of his life, Doris Pickens, at a “Meet & Greet” Welcome Party for new students. After graduation, they were married on March 6, 1952, at the First Baptist Church of Decatur. Both Jim and Dot chose education as a career and became elementary school teachers. They welcomed their daughter Debra Sharon in 1956, daughter Jan Valerie in 1958, and son James Harrison, III in 1960. Throughout his life, Jim enthusiastically recounts his early job as a teacher and coach at O’Keefe High School in Atlanta from 1949 to 1957 as his most memorable and rewarding. He assisted many of his athletes in attaining college scholarships, mentored numerous young men from broken homes, and made a tremendous difference in the lives of these young people. For almost 65 years, he attended an annual O’Keefe golf reunion in Helen, Georgia with his former students. Jim is still affectionately known as “Coach.”
Dr. Hinson rapidly rose through the ranks of education to become a high school principal, Superintendent of Georgia’s largest school system, DeKalb County Schools, President of DeKalb College (later to become known as Georgia Perimeter College and now merged with Georgia State University), Chancellor of Virginia’s Community College System of 25 colleges, and finally, President of Tallahassee Community College from 1983 until his retirement in 1995. Even after he retired, the State of Florida enlisted his help as Interim President of Central Florida Community College in Ocala to shore up its
finances and administration. His genuine love of teaching and his driving force to improve the lives of students never wavered. Fiscal efficiency, improving academic programming for students – including the addition of a nursing program at both DeKalb and TCC, increasing salaries for faculty, and expanding facilities were hallmarks of his administrative talents.
Jim was never seen without a book in his hand, reading at least a book a day. He was an avid golfer, proudly shooting under his age until the age of 94, including tying the Guinness World Record of 18 shots under with a 74 at the age of 92! Playing weekly golf with his regular foursome buddies was one of his greatest pleasures. He loved his Atlanta congregation at Westminster Presbyterian Church, serving as an Elder and Clerk of the Session, and he later joined First Baptist Church of Tallahassee. Jim was an active Rotarian for over 60 years as a member of the Decatur Rotary in Atlanta and later the Tallahassee Rotary. He was also a consummate handyman and never met a plumbing, electrical, or mechanical challenge he could not fix, in part because he almost singlehandedly built the family’s first home in Atlanta.
Jim is survived by his best friend and loving wife of 69 years, Dot, whom he adored and often said “was as beautiful now as she was the day he met her” and that it was impossible for him to fully express his admiration and respect for her impeccable values. He is also survived by his 3 children, to whom he demonstrated great devotion: daughter, Deb Clymer; son-in-law, David Clymer; daughter, Jan Hinson; and son, Jay Hinson; and he was “G-Daddy” to 8 grandchildren: Kimberly Tucker and husband Clint Tucker, Will Pitts and wife Emily Pitts, Courtney Goodrich and husband Dave Goodrich, Jeffrey Caughey, Jordan Caughey and wife Charity Caughey, Hannah Clymer Thompson and husband Cameron Thompson, Harrison Clymer and wife Courtney Clymer, Reid Clymer and wife Lauren Clymer; and 11 great grandchildren: Haley, Claire, and Audrey Tucker; Austin, Aiden, and Asher Goodrich; Will and Brittan Pitts, Lila and Hunt Clymer, and James Clymer.
Dr. James H. Hinson, Jr. was preceded in death by his father, James Harrison Hinson, Sr.; mother, Mary Baird Hinson; sister, Sarah Patricia Hinson Quigley; brother, Joseph Eugene Hinson and wife Nancy Wheeler Hinson; and step-granddaughter Emily Clymer.
A Celebration of Life service was held for Dr. Hinson at the First Baptist Church of Tallahassee on Saturday, January 29, 2022. A second service will be held for Dr. Hinson at 10:00 AM (visitation at 9:00 AM) on Friday, February 11, 2022, at the Cecil B. Day Chapel of Perimeter Church in Johns Creek, Georgia, followed by a traditional military burial at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton, Georgia.
Published by Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Feb. 10, 2022.
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