Charles W. Hinkle, 95, who opened up more U.S. military records to the public than any other federal official, died of complications of pneumonia June 17 at Sleepy Hollow Manor Nursing Home in Annandale.
From 1961 until his retirement in 1984, Mr. Hinkle was director of freedom of information and security review in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, which made him the agency's senior official on the federal Freedom of Information Act.
He drafted the Defense Department's first policies on the law, both after its initial passage in 1965 and after a revision in 1974. The law governs what documents will be made public upon the request of any person. The rules that Mr. Hinkle wrote stipulated "maximum feasible disclosure."
Under his leadership, the Defense Department "went from a scofflaw to a model agency," said Scott Armstrong, an investigative journalist and founder of the National Security Archive, the world's largest nongovernmental library of declassified documents.
"He did his best and it made a huge difference," Armstrong said. "He reeled in other agencies. . . . By cajoling people or staying on point, he got a relatively brutish bureaucracy to kowtow to the rule of law.
"One of his greatest achievements was that the Department of Defense had a requirement that if a reporter requests something, they should treat it as an FOIA request, answering it as quickly as possible, in as declassified a form as possible."
Mr. Hinkle was born in Nashville and grew up in Birmingham. He graduated from the University of Missouri's School of Journalism in 1933, and his first job was as editor of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp newspaper. He later worked as a reporter at the Birmingham Post.
He joined the Army in 1941 and was an infantry company commander in the Pacific theater during World War II. He was wounded during the battle for Okinawa and was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
In 1948, Mr. Hinkle transferred to the Air Force as a public affairs officer, and he was the first to hold that position for the Distant Early Warning Line, a network of radar stations built in Alaska and Canada in the 1950s to guard against attack by the Soviets. He moved to the Washington area in 1954.
Mr. Hinkle retired from the Air Force in 1961 as a colonel and was appointed to a position in the Senior Executive Service in the Defense Department. He received the Defense Distinguished Civilian Service Medal, the Pentagon's highest award for civilians, on his retirement in 1984. After retirement, he worked for several years as a consultant for the Pentagon on declassification of older records.
His wife, Emily Trevillian Hinkle, died in 1988; a son, Charles K. Hinkle, died in 1987.
Survivors include a son, Wade P. Hinkle of Annandale.