Jon Hinson

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Jon Hinson
Jon Hinson.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 4th district
In office
January 3, 1979 – April 13, 1981
Preceded by Thad Cochran
Succeeded by Wayne Dowdy
Personal details
Born (1942-03-16)March 16, 1942
Tylertown, Walthall County
Mississippi
Died July 21, 1995(1995-07-21) (aged 53)
Silver Spring, Maryland
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Cynthia Hinson (divorced)
Children No children
Alma mater University of Mississippi
Military service
Service/branch United States Marine Corps Reserve

Jon Clifton Hinson (March 16, 1942 – July 21, 1995) was a politician from the U.S. state of Mississippi. He served in the United States Congress as a representative from 1979 until resigning in 1981, following his arrest for a homosexual act. Hinson became an activist for gay and lesbian rights, living in the Washington metropolitan area.

Early life[edit]

Born in Tylertown in Walthall County in southwestern Mississippi in 1942, Hinson attended local schools. In 1959 he worked as a page for Congressman John Bell Williams.

He graduated from the University of Mississippi at Oxford in 1964, and joined the United States Marine Corps Reserve, in which he served until 1970.

Career[edit]

Hinson worked on the U.S. House staff as doorman in 1967, and then served on the staffs of Representatives Charles H. Griffin, a Democrat, and Thad Cochran, a Republican.

In 1978, Cochran ran successfully for the United States Senate. Hinson was elected to succeed him, winning the U.S. House seat with 51.6 percent of the vote. Democrat John Hampton Stennis, the son of U.S. Senator John C. Stennis, polled 26.4 percent of the vote, and the remaining ballots were cast for independent candidates.

Controversy[edit]

During his re-election campaign in 1980, Hinson admitted that in 1976, while an aide to Cochran, he had been arrested for committing an obscene act[1] after he exposed himself to an undercover policeman at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. Hinson denied that he was homosexual and blamed his problems on alcoholism. He said that he had reformed and refused to yield to demands that he resign. He won re-election with a plurality of 38.97 percent of the vote. Independent Leslie B. McLemore polled 29.8 percent, and Democrat Britt Singletary received 29.4 percent.

Hinson was arrested again on February 4, 1981, and charged with attempted sodomy[2] for performing oral sex on an male employee of the Library of Congress in a restroom of the House of Representatives. He was later charged with sodomy.

At the time, homosexual acts were still criminalized, even between consenting adults. The charge was a felony that could have resulted in up to ten years in prison, as well as fines of up to $10,000. Since both parties were consenting adults (and social attitudes were changing), the United States Attorney's office reduced the charge to a misdemeanor. Facing a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine, Hinson pleaded not guilty to a charge of attempted sodomy the following day and was released without bail pending a trial scheduled for May 4, 1981. Soon thereafter, he checked himself into a Washington, D.C.-area hospital for treatment.[3] Hinson later received a 30-day jail sentence, which was suspended, and a year's probation, on condition that he continue counseling and treatment.[4]

Resignation and later life[edit]

Hinson resigned on April 13, 1981, early in his second term. He said that his resignation had been "the most painful and difficult decision of my life." He was succeeded in the House by Wayne Dowdy, a Democrat, who won the special election held in the summer of 1981.

Soon afterward, Hinson acknowledged that he was homosexual and became an activist for gay rights. He later helped to organize the lobbying group "Virginians for Justice" and fought against the ban on gays in the military. He also was a founding member of the Fairfax Lesbian and Gay Citizens Association in Fairfax County. He never returned to Mississippi but lived quietly in the Washington area, first in Alexandria, Virginia, and then Silver Spring, Maryland.

Hinson also disclosed that he survived a 1977 fire that killed nine people at the Cinema Follies, a Washington theater that catered to gay customers. He was rescued from under a pile of bodies, and was one of only four survivors of the fire.

Death[edit]

Hinson died of respiratory failure resulting from AIDS in Silver Spring, Maryland at the age of 53.[5]

Hinson's body was cremated. The ashes were buried in his native Tylertown, Mississippi, after a private service. By then divorced from his wife, Cynthia, Hinson was survived by a brother, Robert Hinson of Gulfport, Mississippi.

References[edit]

Additional sources[edit]

  • "Hinson, Facing a Morals Charge, Shuns Clamor to Quit Congress," New York Times, 9 March 1981, A18;
  • AP, "Jon Hinson Dies at 53," July 25, 1995;
  • Art Harris, "Hinson's Memory Haunts His Mississippi District," Washington Post, 17 June 1981.

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Thad Cochran
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 4th congressional district

January 3, 1979 – April 13, 1981
Succeeded by
Wayne Dowdy