Mr. Hills spent many years as an executive with public relations firms including Burson-Marsteller, where he specialized in food and drug legislation, and Henry J. Kaufman and Associates. In 1989 he started his own firm, Hills Communications, and one of its clients was the National Paint and Coatings Association, now the American Coatings Association.
He soon began leading the Anti-Graffiti Project, an effort funded by the paint industry and whose primary goal is to prevent the illegal use of consumer products such as spray paint. The project provided curriculum materials to schools, theft prevention training to retailers and offered assistance to municipalities in anti-graffiti programs.
In 1999, he told the Newark Star-Ledger that people who use spray-paint as graffiti have “criminal value systems.”
“It’s a symbol of deviant criminal behavior,” he added. “They have no respect for other people or their property. It’s also a serious and expensive property crime.”
He was a recipient of the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil, one of the highest honors in his profession.
Robert Neal Hills was a Detroit native and a graduate of St. Joseph’s College of Indiana. He received a master’s degree in economics from Michigan State University in 1958.
Early in his career, he was an aide to Wilbur Cohen, who was undersecretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. In the early 1970s, he was press secretary for Sen. Vance Hartke (D-Ind.).
He was a past board member of the American Cancer Society and Claude Moore Colonial Farm in McLean.
His marriages to Marilyn DeVore and Tamara Rafferty ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 24 years, Kirsten Pedersen Hills of Edgewater; four children from his first marriage, Katherine M. Hills of Phoenix, Carol A. Jimenez of Oceanside, Calif., Julia E. Hills of Descanso, Calif., and R. Curt Hills of Scottsdale, Ariz.; two brothers, Patrick Hills of Alexandria and Charles Hills of Houston; and six grandchildren.
— Adam Bernstein