Judson VanNess Hinckley


Died March 11, 1969

College: Pierson

Jud Hinckley was born in Passaic, NJ and graduated from Ridgewood (NJ) High School. Before coming to Yale, he served for two years in the Navy. At Yale Jud enjoyed fencing and earned a major “Y” as fencing manager. His less aggressive, more compassionate side is evidenced by his membership in Alpha Phi Omega. APO’s motto is “Be a Leader, Be a Friend, Be of Service.”

Jud was certainly a friend to me as my roommate in Pierson during our Junior and Senior Years. We had long discussions about the Great Questions of Life, current events, and our experiences at Yale. In some ways Jud was the older brother I never had. I admired Jud’s intelligence, his way with words, and his emotional sensitivity. This giftedness enabled him to excel in his study of English literature, and he was at times a ranking scholar and on the Dean’s list. After graduation Jud headed to Harvard Law School.

I regret that I only started keeping up with my Yale friends after our ten-year reunion. By then, for Jud, it was too late. His twin brother, Alfred Hinckley, told me that after graduating from law school, Jud spent a year hitch-hiking and camping across the U.S., visiting National Parks. Taking extensive notes, Jud marveled at the natural beauty of our country. Unfortunately, Jud became afflicted with an eight-pound stomach tumor that took twelve hours of surgery to remove (a case so remarkable that it was reported in a medical journal). After recovering, Jud went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to earn a Master’s degree, did some teaching there, and began a PhD program in Philosophy.

To me, Jud showed the potential to become for writing what Van Gogh was to painting (and he may have shared Van Gogh’s temperament). So I’m borrowing some words from a song about Van Gogh titled “Vincent”:

And when no hope was left in sight

On that starry, starry night,

You took your life, as dreamers often do.

But I could have told you, Judson,

This world was never meant for one

As beautiful as you.

—by Richard W. Rieder