|Accused presidential assassin John Hinckley, Jr. leaves the Federal Courthouse in Washington in 1981 after being arraigned. Hinckley was held without bail.
John Hinckley, Jr. brings infamy to Lubbock
1981 Twice did John Warnock Hinckley Jr. - sporadic Texas Tech student, loner, apparently friendless - break his veil of taciturnity.
The first incident, apparently only a few weeks after he left Tech last summer, landed him in a Nashville, Tenn., jail on a weapons-carrying charge. President Jimmy Carter was in town that day.
The second burst into national notoriety came Monday when he was pinned against the wall of a Washington, D.C., hotel and hours later charged with shooting President Ronald Reagan and three other persons.
A check of records on weapons sales indicates that only four days after the Nashville incident Hinckley purchased a pair of revolvers in Dallas. The weapons were of the same type police said they took from the suspect Monday in Washington.
When Hinckley, now 25, entered Texas Tech University in 1973, he was a slim, smiling young man fresh from graduation at affluent Highland Park High School - a classy school in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the Dallas area.
Monday, the blue-eyed blond was being held by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the attempted assassination of President Reagan.
The club records, mementos, and clippings that normally mark a student's passage through a university are nonexistent in the case of Hinckley. Official university transcripts and records were taken by Texas Tech administrators almost by the time President Reagan and the other victims reached a hospital Monday.
The few persons in Lubbock who have known Hinckley say they are shocked.
"He kept to himself," says Beverly McBeath of 3807 47th St. in Lubbock. She attended junior and senior high school with Hinckley in Highland Park. "Most people who went to high school with him probably wouldn't remember him because he was so low-key."
Mrs. McBeath says Hinckley had few close friends "if any." She remembers him as a quiet "B-average" student. "He was quiet and reserved."
He first entered Texas Tech in 1973, as a business administration major. He later switched to an arts and sciences major and attended Tech as late as the first summer session of 1980, without obtaining a degree, university officials say.
A photograph of Hinckley in the 1974 La Ventana, Tech's yearbook, lists no club memberships at the university.
Picture jolts memory
Dr. Bill Freeman, a Tech faculty member and sponsor of the rodeo activities, said that when he saw television photos of Hinckley, it jolted a memory.
"That boy looks familiar but whether he was in rodeo, I can't say."
Kevin Crowley, manager of the Westernaire Apartments at 2404 19th St., says he too recognized photos of Hinckley. Before Crowley became apartment manager, he was a tenant in apartment 202 of the complex. Hinckley lived in apartment 208.
Although Crowley saw Hinckley several times, going to the apartment complex pool and on other routine trips, he didn't know him well.
But he did note, after seeing current pictures of Hinckley, "He doesn't look like he used to."
Don Barett, who operates an appliance rental company in Lubbock, said he rented Hinckley a television, and last saw the young man in July 1980, during Hinckley's last days at Tech.
"He's a loner," Barett said. "I never saw the guy with anyone. I saw the guy walking up and down University Avenue with a white bag under his arm carrying hamburgers. He didn't appear dangerous. I don't know; maybe he wants to write a book."
Those who knew Hinckley in earlier days remember few outstanding traits. Jim Francis, operations manager of the Dallas oil firm Brighton Co., and a fundraiser for Gov. Bill Clements, was Hinckley's basketball coach in the fourth through sixth grades.
"As a kid, he was a beautiful looking blond-headed little boy, a wonderful athlete," Francis said. "I don't know what may have happened since then to him, but he was really a leader. He was one of the best athletes on the team, and the best basketball player."
"He was friendly to everyone. He didn't sit off in the corner," says Bill Lierman, sponsor of the Rodeo Club at Highland Park High School. Lierman decsribed Hinckley as "very personable" and "well-mannered."
"He was likeable, laughable, cutting up all the time," Lierman said. "I'm sure he had girlfriends, but I never saw any of them. He was a very nice looking young fellow. If he did have a temper, he didn't display it at all. It seemed like he liked everybody."
The youngest of three children, Hinckley apparently stayed in Texas when the rest of his family moved to Evergreen, Colo., in 1974.
But when he applied for a driver's license in Lubbock in May 1979 he also had a Colorado driver's license. He listed his Lubbock address at that time as 2404 10th St. Department of Public Safety records in Texas indicate Hinckley had no criminal conviction in the state and was involved in no traffic accidents.
Although the DPS found no arrest or accident records on Hinckley as late as the summer of 1980 when Hinckley still lived in Lubbock, it was only a few months later that Hinckley was arrested in Nashville, Tenn.
Arrest at airport
Rep. Bill Alexander, D-Ark., said Hinckley, whose home is now listed as Evergreen, Colo., was arrested by Metropolitan Airport Police in Nashville on Oct. 9, 1980, for carrying three handguns. Carter was having a town hall meeting that day at the Grand Ole Opry. The Associated Press said Reagan was scheduled to make a campaign stop in Memphis, but canceled the appearance. The FBI confirmed the incident, but refused to discuss details.
Bill Brockett, an employee at Snidley Whiplash Pawnshop in Lubbock, said Hinckley bought a .22-caliber pistol from the pawnshop in September 1980. Brockett said that Hinckley may have purchased handguns from two other pawn shops and that they may have been the same weapons confiscated in Nashville.
Reagan was wounded Monday with a .22-caliber pistol outside a Washington hotel just as he was about to enter his limo.
Hinckley bought two identical .22-caliber revolvers in Rocky's Pawn Shop in Dallas on Oct. 3., four days after his Nashville arrest. Federal officials have refused to confirm that the pistol which was confiscated Monday was one of the two weapons bought in Dallas. However, when agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms fanned out to Lubbock gun shops hours after the assassination attempt, they were asking owners about the same type of .22-caliber revolver purchased in Dallas.
Prior to Monday's violence, the last trace of Hinckley was on March 11 when he pawned a guitar and typewriter in Denver and said he was "going out of town."
The young man was shabbily dressed and "looked like a man down on his luck," said Brent Morris, the clerk at G.I. Joe's Pawn Shop in Denver.
Hinckley's parents issued word through an attorney late Monday afternoon that their son had sought treatment for mental problems. "John has been under recent psychiatric care," according to a statement by Mr. and Mrs. J.W. "Jack" Hinckley which was read by attorney Jim Robinson. "His evaluation did not alert anyone to the seriousness of his condition. We are grieved and heartbroken by this tragedy ... We love our son and we will of course stand by him."