An article in the April 5 editions of The Washington Post presented an inaccurate depiction of Texas Tech University and the city in which the university is located, Lubbock. Texas Tech students do not carry guns to class, as the article stated, and the city itself is a quiet town with orderly and law-abiding citizens. There is no "pistol-packing" tradition in Lubbock, as the article incorrectly implied. CAPTION: Picture 1, John W. Hinckley Jr. is driven away after an appearance in District Court. AP; Pictures 2 through 5, TEXAS ROOTS -- 1955 -- John Warnock Hinckley Jr. is born in Ardmore, Okla., the youngest of three children. 1959 -- The family moves to suburban Dallas, where the father gets into the oil business. Hinckley attends Armstrong Elementary School there. 1966 -- Family moves to Highland Park, the most exclusive section of Dallas, a community known as The Bubble. At Highland Park High School Hinckley's older brother and sister succeed socially and academically in a way that he cannot match. 1973 -- Hinckley graduates from high school, almost totally unremembered by his classmates. In the fall, he enrolls at Texas Tech University in the dusty West Texas town of Lubbock. 1974 -- Hinckley's parents move from Dallas to an equally exclusive suburb of Denver, where his father establishes Vanderbilt Energy Corp., a gas and oil exploration firm named after the older son's college. It is a venture that will make the father a millionaire. At Texas Tech Hinckley spends hours in his rented apartments with shades drawn, eating hamburgers and watching television. Map and symbol, The WANDERER -- 1976 -- Young Hinckley's wanderings begin. In the spring, he moves to Hollywood, staying three months in a seedy part of that glamorous town. For two years he roams between Los Angeles, Denver, Lubbock and Dallas, dropping in and out of Texas Tech, sometimes applying for jobs, losing touch with his family. 1978 -- In the spring, he apparently joins the National Socialist Party
John Warnock Hinckley Junior, the man accused of shooting the president outside a Washington hotel, was born in 1955 and grew up in the Highland Park section of North Dallas in a community known as The Bubble.
The Bubble was built in the early 1900s as a haven for the wealthy. It is a place where housing prices start at $200,000 and the outside world seldom intrudes on the lives of governors and silver barons who reside there. The emphasis on money, status and success is implicit in designer shirts and midwinter tans from skiing vacations at Vail.
This is a community of achievers, people who have arrived and who are protective of their privileges. Nine out of 10 parents hold college degrees. An even higher percentage of their children go on to college. But no matter how far afield they range, most seem to aspire to return to The Bubble.
To be young here means having a car, spending Christmas vacation in the Caribbean, and being able to buy penny loafers or Topsiders in 10 different colors. On any given day, A Rolls Royce or two idles outside Highland Park High School, where students show up early just to gossip in their cliques and where prayers are said daily. Next to Christianity, football if the most widely practiced religion. "Football," said Gloria Hennings, a mother whose son was lucky enough to make the team, "is like being on the inner cabinet of God."
John Hinckley was preceded at Highland Park High School by an older brother who went on to Vanderbilt University, once known as the Harvard of the South, and by an older sister whose beauty and popularity as a head cheerleader are still remembered by people who live in The Bubble.
John Hinckley didn't play football. He didn't excel in his studies. He didn't have girlfriends to squire to the Friday night pep rallies or the Saturday night parties or the football games at nearby Southern Methodist University. And he didn't go to Vanderbilt.
Instead, he left The Bubble to enroll at Texas Tech in Lubbock where he worked fitfully for seven years without getting a degree and lived in a series of apartments in which there was little else but rented TV sets, his guitar, empty hamburger bags, and a few pieces of furniture covered with the West Texas dust.
The evolution that began in The Bubble and was played out in the seediest sections of towns across the country climaxed in a violent moment on rainy spring afternoon in Washington. In a story that has aspects too absurd even for Hollywood -- such as pawnshops called Snidely Whiplash and motels named The Golden Hours -- John Hinckley left his childhood in a fairy tale suburb and embarked on a journey that was marked by alienation, a gun fetish and failure.
Failure to graduate from college. Failure to get a job. Failure to measure up to his brother and sister. Failure to connect with his father. Failure to distinguish life from art. And finally falure to be recognized in the affections of teen-aged movie star Jodie Foster, for whom he had developed a monumental obsession. His odyssey ended in what he thought would be the ultimate act of recognition. Chapter 1: Texas Roots
John Warnock Hinckley Jr. was born May 29 in Ardmore, Okla., to Jo Ann and John Hinckley Sr. At the time, his brother Scott was 5, his sister Diane, 2. When John Jr. was 4 years old, the family moved to a house on Caruth Street in a community called North University Park about six miles north of the center of Dallas. It is the stepping stone into Highland Park, and together the two communities form the Park Cities which last November gave Ronald Reagan the largest vote of any Dallas suburb.
Hinckley's father, John Sr., was born and reared in Tulsa. His father died when he was 2. He studied engineering at the University of Oklahoma and, until he founded the company in 1970 that made him a millionaire, he worked for a number of small oil firms in Oklahoma and Texas. He was an archconservative who divided his interests between Christianity and free enterprise.
Charles V. Westapher, pastor of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, remembers the elder Hinckley and his wife as church leaders. "I don't think they ever missed a Sunday," he said. "The Hinckleys fit into the pattern of the parish -- redneck Republican, ultraconservative, as I am. A solid family. I can see them in my mind's eye standing there with their children around them. There was nothing outstanding about John Jr. He wasn't an outstanding achiever. He was not in trouble. He just fades into the mist of time."
Young Hinckley played basketball and traded baseball cards with other neighborhood boys as a gradeschooler at Armstrong Elementary. But even then, there was such a sharp contrast with his siblings. He languished in their shadows. "He seemed to have an inferiority complex," said Toni Johnson, a neighbor. "He was always so quiet. He used to come over for vanilla wafers and he would help himself and not say a thing. The other kids would always talk more than him."
In 1966, the Hinckley family arrived in The Bubble, moving into a two-story yellow-brick house, with a swimming pool and a private Coke machine, in the heart of Highland Park. The house was set on Beverly Street among the mansions of millionaires such as silver magnate Herbert Hunt and Texas Governor Bill Clements. It was near the jogging path that parallels Turtle Creek and the azalea-lined streets that run past the Dallas Country Club where the elder Hinckley golfed on weekends.
Surrounded by Dallas, the residents in The Bubble have long been protected from social change, from life as it is lived in most other towns and cities in America. Crime is minimal, and the town's police force spends much of its time simply cruising the streets to remind the residents of their safety.
After graduating from McColloch Middle School, Hinckley in 1969 entered Highland Park High School, which boasts such an excellent academic reputation that it is considered as good as many private preparatory schools. Over the years, it has produced such graduates as Bill Clements, who still lives in the neighborhood, Nobel-prize-winning physicist James Cronin, football stars Bobby Layne and Doak Walker and movie star Jayne Mansfield.
Religion dominates life in the high school as it does life in The Bubble. The school has a daily devotion, and at pep rallies, football players often come forward to offer extemporaneous prayers. At Highland, not only do students own their own cars, they consider those who don't abnormal. It is a school where social pressures are often more severe than academic pressures. Caste systems established at Highland Park continue for years afterward, in the form of sorority and fraternity groups in college and even in weekly bowling outings when students return to Highland Park to settle as adults.
When handsome, blond-haired John Hinckley entered Highland, his older sister Diane was emerging as one of the most successful students in the school. A pretty and exuberant Texas belle, Diane was chosen one of the eight outstanding seniors in 1971. She was a candidate for homecoming queen and head cheerleader at a school where students run for the title and are selected by popular vote. In the insular world of Highland Park, few achievements rank higher.
(Such an election is under way now and, in the main corridor of the school, taped to the trophy cases are handsome color portraits of the candidates with names like Missy and Stephanie and Gigi and Claire, whose smiles are as identical as their Izod Lacoste and Ralph Lauren shirts.)
Hinckley was never a part of this world. He achieved nothing remarkable and thus was condemned to obscurity. "He was normal," recalled classmate Beverly McBeath. "Nobody paid any attention to him."
In a school where normality was almost a curse, no one remembers Hinckley's attending high school weekend rituals or dating. Even though he was president of his ninth grade homeroom, he seems to have passed from freshman to senior year without leaving a trace. Highland Park yearbooks portray a succession of snapshots of a clean-cut, All-American kid, and they list his activities as Spanish Club, Rodeo Club and Students in Government. But no one who participated in those groups remembers him. His own classmates recall his older sister more readily.
Diane was married right out of high school in 1971. Hinckley's aunt, Avilla Bates recalls him quietly sitting off to the side of the wedding ceremony at a Dallas Episcopal Church. Hinckley graudated in 1973. When his family left Dallas in 1974, and moved to an equally prosperous and protected life in an affluent suburb of Denver, he stayed in Texas to enroll at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Chapter 2: Alone in West Texas
The outsider moved to Lubbock in 1973, to a dusty, windswept college town in West Texas. There, at Texas Tech, an engineering-oriented university that accepts 99 percent of its applicants, he began a sporadic college career, dropping out at least three times, majoring in at least three different subjects, living in one nondescript garden apartment building after another. He started out interested in business administration, later majored in English, and still later developed a taste for history. But there are other things, more than the records at Texas Tech, that show how Hinckley had left The Bubble only to become enveloped in his own disconnected and lonely world.
He became a wanderer and an invisible man. Some local merchants, among the few townsfolk who remember him, recall that he would head out each morning on a methodical stroll for a late-morning breakfast of cheeseburgers. They took note of this daily passage with the words: "Well, there goes old Hinky-Dinky." He seemed to have only a guitar and a series of rented black-and-white television sets. His apartments, according to the few people who visited him there, were barren, save for a few pieces of furniture, tightly drawn window shades, the inevitable dust and the bluish glow of the black-and-white.
There were former Highland Park classmates at Texas Tech, but they lost touch with Hinckley and never saw him on campus. He took a variety of college courses, including three journalism and three music literature classes, and his grades were good enough to keep him in school. One semester, the fall of 1977, he made the university Dean's List by maintaining an average of B or better.
But his college career was an unsustained, scattershot thing spanning seven years and including three mysterious breaks. During at least one of these breaks, Hinckley ended up in the nation's movie capital.
As the nation prepared to celebrate its bicentennial in 1976, Hinckley left Lubbock and wandered to Hollywood, where he lived in Room 346 at Howard's Weekly Apartments on North El Centro Street. The green-stucco building was only about a mile from Hollywood and Vine streets, a corner symbolic of movie fans and success and money, but it might as well have been light years away.
Hinckley's part of town was treelined, sunny and relatively well cared for. It was also a haven for drugs, homosexuality and prostitution. Several other small apartment buildings for transients occupied the area and a row of small bars and pornographic bookshops was only a block away. The only tenant to remember Hinckley is Larry Ehmpke, a 51-year-old forklift operator who said the young man who lived across the hall from him five years ago had a heavy face, short hair and a mustache, but he doesn't remember ever speaking to him.
Very little is known of Hinckley's life in the underside of Hollywood, so many years and miles from The Bubble. Only in the paper trail of apartments leased and items pawned can traces of his existence be found. At a pawn shop called the Hollywood Collateral Loan Association, located only a few blocks away from Howard's Weekly Apartments, an employe went through shop records and found that Hinckley pawned a stainless steel watch for $15 there in June 1976.
Four years later, on job applications he submitted to newspapers in Denver, Hinckley wrote he had worked as bookkeeper for a publishing house in Dallas -- which proved false when the paper checked -- and for a photography studio in Los Angeles, in the summer of 1976. The owner of the studio for which Hinckley claimed he worked, Richard Ellis, said a young man closely resembling Hinckley appeared at his shop sometime in 1977.
"He seemed very young, perhaps a little out of high school. He said he wanted to take pictures of babies. But we don't do that kind of work and he didn't have a portfolio," said Ellis. "He said he had taken many pictures before and knew what he was doing, but when I began to ask him some questions it was clear he did not. He didn't even know the difference between depth of field and field of focus."
Eventually, Hinckley wandered eastward and again took up his studies in Lubbock. History professor Joseph King recalled Hinckley as the fellow who sat by himself in King's U.S. Economic History Class. "While everyone else in the class exhibited a kind of camaraderie, he always sat alone, surrounded by empty chairs," said King, who gave Hinckley an A on a paper he wrote about American slavery. "Even during humorous moments, he continued to gaze at me attentively, taking notes."
Off campus at Texas Tech, the few persons who remembered seeing the withdrawn young man included a maintenance man who cleaned the apartment building in which Hinckley lived and the appliance dealer from whom he rented his televisions.
"His attitude and personality were strained," said Calvin Wynne, the maintenance worker at the University Arms apartment complex who spoke to Hinckley there twice last fall. "It seemed as though he had something on his mind. He wanted to talk about it, it seemed he wanted to find someone to tell it to. There was a nervousness about him. Hyperactive, is that what you call it? He moved about a lot. He got more anxious, more hyper as the conversation wore on, like he wanted to do something about it."
From January 1978 to July 29, 1980, Don Barrett, manager of an appliance rental store in Lubbock, rented Hinckley a television four times. Barrett said Hinckley had been in the office dozens of times, either renting or making his payments. "He would say hello and so forth but as far as initiating a conversation, he didn't," Barrett said.
Occasionally, the two men chatted about the Dallas Cowboys or the Texas Tech Red Raiders football teams, and Barrett recalled that Hinckley attended games.
"I never saw him with anyone, and I saw him quite a bit," the appliance dealer said. Each time, Hinckley rented either a 12-inch or 15-inch black-and-white television, depending on what was available. Twice, Barrett said, he visited Hinckley's apartment to deliver televisions, and found that the student had no silverware, little furniture and nothing on the walls of his room. His credit was good enough, though. Hinckley was able to rent a television on only his signature the last three times he dealt with Barrett.
The last day Hinckley returned a television set to the store he was short two dollars. Barrett said the young man dutifully ran off to collect the deficit. "John is honest," Barrett said. "If he walked in today, I would probably rent him a television set. When I heard he was in court in D.C. addressing the magistrate as 'yes sir' and 'no sir,' that sounded like John."
It isn't yet clear when, or even if, the drifting Texan joined the neo-Nazi membership of the American Socialist Party of America, another strange and twisted world in itself. Law enforcement officials and the Anti-Defamation League have no record of Hinckley ever belonging to the party. And his parents have said through friends that photographs showing someone resembling him in a Nazi uniform are in fact not pictures of their son.
According to leaders of the outfit, whose ideology includes the forced expatriation of blacks, Jews and avowed communists, Hinckley joined the party in 1978 while in Texas. Michael C. Allen, acting director of the extremist organization, claims he remembers Hinckley going to St. Louis to take part in a 1978 demonstration honoring the birth of George Lincoln Rockwell.
Allen remembers that Hinckley was "flustered" and "bothered" and wanted to "fight back", when several thousand anti-Nazi demonstrators ran the marchers out of the St. Louis park. "He liked being a stormtrooper," Allen said. "You have to like it to put on one of our uniforms and do the things we do. But we began to get reports that Hinckley wouldn't conform to our program. He kept trying to get people to go out and shoot people."
It got to the point, Allen said, where the strange young man he thinks was Hinckley was suspected by other members of being a federal undercover agent. In 1979, Allen said, the man was expelled. While Hinckley's connection to the party remains uncertain, it is known that he took a course on Modern Germany in the summer of 1978 at Texas Tech and wrote papers on German concentration camps and "Mein Kampf," Hitler's autobiography.
In Lubbock, the owner of a used-book store said Hinckley visited him "four or five times" at the beginning of 1980. "He never talked much, which is unusual for any of my customers," said Onie Montgomery. "He would go directly to that section where I had the World War II books and stand and go through the books and he stayed 30 minutes to an hour each time.
"The last time he was in, he bought the two-volume set of 'Mein Kampf.' I couldn't understand why his type -- the way he was dressed and all -- could afford $30 for a two-volume set. I didn't see him after that."
At the end of the second summer session last year at Texas Tech, Hinckley was dropped from the student rolls for nonpayment of fees. Chapter 3: Movie Star, Guns
After Hinckley abandoned his college education in the summer of 1980, he turned to a new obsession that lured him north to New Haven and to other towns around the country. The drifter who had so few real friendships in his life had become involved in a fantasized relationship with movie starlet Jodie Foster.
In the fall of 1980, Foster entered Yale as an 18-year-old freshman. She published a breezy article in the college issue of Esquire which said she was trading the "disco dresses, People Magazine, and Santa Ana winds" of her starlet's life in Los Angeles for "good ol' New Haven grime" and the collegiate life at Yale University.
The magazine hit the stands Sept. 20, as Foster was settling into her room in the gothic brownstone Welsh Hall on Yale's Old Campus, a section reserved for freshmen. Knots of would-be suitors sometimes gathered and knocked on the dormitory door. Foster drew such attention that she took her name out of the phone directory and even moved into a motel for a while.
Before she had become a college student, Jodie Foster had made a dozen movies and in 1976 had been nominated for an Academy Award for her protrayal of a 12-year-old prostitute in Martin Scorcese's violent urban fable "Taxi Driver." In "Taxi Driver" an alienated ex-Marine and would-be assassin played by Robert De Niro masters a small arsenal of handguns, stalks a presidential candidate and in a climactic bloodbath rescues the young whore from New York's pornographic underworld.
At the beginning of the semester, Foster had received several letters from a man who signed his name as J.W.H. and John W. Hinckley. They expressed the stranger's love and devotion to her. The letters were a part of an incessant stream of fan mail she received. Foster threw them into the garbage.
Meanwhile in Lubbock, sometime in early September, Hinckley bought what was apparently his first gun, a blue steel .38 with a plastic checker-grip. He picked it up for $86 at the Galaxy Pawn Shop. The handgun was assembled by RG Industries in Miami from parts imported from Germany.
A penchant for guns hardly strikes anyone as ominous in free-wheeling Lubbock, where some university students carry guns to class and the pistol-packing frontier Texas tradition runs deep and long. But Hinckley bought more guns.On Sept. 26, he visited the Snidely Whiplash pawnshop where he purchased two classic Saturday Night Specials -- cheap .22-caliber handguns also made by RG Industries.
Sometime in early October, Hinckley set out for New Haven. He spent at least one night in the college town at the Colony Inn, signing his name and paying cash, according to manager Harry Gilbert, who is unsure of the exact date. A maid who cleaned Hinckley's room said she found several pictures of Jodie Foster in the bed linen which she threw away. A bartender at the Top of the Park bar in the Park Plaza recalls that a man he now thinks was Hinckley spent about three hours one day last fall drinking, bragging that Jodie Foster was his girlfriend, and showing bartenders clippings on the young actress.
On Oct. 7, Hinckley arrived at Nashville Metropolitan Airport on Delta Airlines and checked into the Opryland Hotel, 10 minutes from the terminal. For some reason, possibly because it was cheaper, Hinckley moved the next night to the Downtowner Hotel not far from the Tennessee State Capitol.
The next morning, Oct. 9, Air Force One touched down on the airport tarmac of the country music capital of the world and Jimmy Carter stepped out, headed for a "town meeting" and a fund-raiser at the Opryland Hotel. Shortly before 1 p.m. on the 9th, three security guards stationed at a checkpoint gate on the south concourse saw a sandy-haired young man dashing toward them to catch a 1 p.m. flight to New York. He carried a small bag.
"I'm running late," he said, thrusting his bag forward. "You gotta put this through."
Evelyn Brannon of the Wackenhut Security Corporation motioned to Laura Farmer watching the airport luggage X-ray to check carefully. "He said he didn't have any guns," remembers Marjorie Pilkinton who watched the encounter. "The man was very nervous. He couldn't keep still."
As the conveyor carried the bag under the X-ray, Farmer discerned the metal shapes of firearms, and immediately beckoned Officer John Lynch. Lynch opened the bag and discovered a .38-caliber handgun and two .22-caliber pistols as well as handcuffs and a box of 50 hollow-point bullets.
"He told me he wasn't aware of the laws of Tennessee that he couldn't carry guns without a permit," Lynch said. "He said he was sorry a couple of times." At 1:12 p.m. John W. Hinckley Jr. was arrested and charged with illegally carrying a weapon, a misdeamenor. Lynch took him downtown while another police officer telephoned the FBI in Nashville to notify them of the arrest. On the way to the station, Lynch recalls, Hinckley said he was returning to school at Yale University from his home in Texas and that he planned to give one of the guns to a friend, sell the second, and perhaps keep the third.
At the station, Hinckley appeared before Judge William Higgins who vaguely recalls the encounter. "There was something about him going to school, something about law enforcement," Higgins said. "That's what he said he was studying. To me it was a satisfactory explanation."
The guns that were still in their factory boxes and had never been fired, were confiscated. Hinckley spent 30 minutes in a cell while a jail trusty processed his $50 bond and the $12.50 he had paid for court costs. Lynch drove him back to the airport. Hinckley caught a 5:20 flight to New York. The episode, law enforcement authorities now believe, was an experience that would persuade the young man to travel by bus next time he desired to transport his guns.
Four days later, Hinckley had returned to Texas. He walked into Rocky's Pawn Shop on 2018 Elm Street on the east end of downtown Dallas. The bumper sticker plastered over the front door reads "Guns Don't Cause Crime Anymore Than Flies Cause Garbage." Hinckley bought two RG 14 .22-caliber pistols like the ones that had been confiscated in Nashville. The serial number on one of the Saturday Night Specials was L-73132.Almost five months later, at 3:30 p.m. on March 30, Isaac (Rocky) Goldstein, the 70-year old owner of Rocky's, got a call from agents of the Bureau, Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who said the gun had been used in an attempt to assassinate President Reagan. Chapter 4: Denver, the Family
After he purchased two handguns from Rocky's Pawn Shop, John Hinckley traveled to Colorado where his family had resettled in a Denver suburb. This was the start of a five-month period in which Hinckley spent time in squalid motels, when he could have been in his parents' luxurious house, and haunted a high school he had never attended. He applied for jobs, and his father at one point even took cheer in his aimless son's apparent resolve to settle in the area and look for work.
But it came to nothing in Denver. As his brother Scott was groomed to take a seat on the board of his father's company, John stood in soup lines at a mission full of indigent vagabonds.
When John Jr. began his freshman year at Texas Tech, his father and mother moved out of The Bubble to Denver's most exclusive suburb, a bedroom community of 20,000 called Evergreen. The Hinckley's ranch-style $250,000 stone-and-cedar house was 25 miles outside the city, surrounded by snow-crested mountainss and tall stands of ponderosa.
"Jack" Hinckley, as his colleagues know him, was now becoming a millionaire. Vanderbilt Energy Corporation, the small oil and gas prospecting firm he started in Dallas in 1970 and named after his son Scott's college, began to flourish once he moved its headquarters to Denver. What started as a $120,000 investment was parlayed into a multimillion dollar company.
At Vanderbilt, son Scott had belonged to one of the top four fraternities and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. He was a popular, outgoing student in Nashville and carried that forward to the business world.
After working for several engineering companies, Scott Hinckley joined his father's firm several years ago and like his father, exhibited drive and aggressiveness and keen business sense, enough to earn him the position of vice president of company operations. Last month, Scott Hinckley's contributions to the firm were rewardedd when he was named to the firm's board of directors.
Scott Hinckley was a mirror image of his father, whose success story was classically American. A self-made man who started out in the oil fields of Oklahoma and Texas, Jack Hinckley was now lord of a prosperous enterprise and living in a nouveau riche mountain suburb that was essentially Denver's answer to The Bubble. And his values had been fully inherited by his oldest son.
"Jack, in a nutshell, is a typical mid-America Jack Armstrong all-American man," said Clarence Netherland, acting chairman of the board for Vanderbilt. "A pleasant, aggressive, smart, nice-looking guy. Every one likes Jack and always has.
"Scott," Netherland said, "is very similar to his dad. Maybe not as effervescent as his dad, but self-confident. The two are very similar in personality, appearance and philosophies."
And like most self-made men, those philosophical and political leanings were conservative and Republican.
"He [Jack] was very happy with the fact that Reagan was elected," recalled a friend, Robert Ainsworth. "We kidded Jack about Reagan's election because we knew how much he liked him. We said, 'All the world's problems will be solved now that Reagan is in.' He laughed -- he had a good sense of humor."
In fact, it seemed Jack Hinckley had it all. He played golf and skied in the mountains on weekends, he lunched downtown at the Petroleum Club and he had a son who was marching in his footsteps. His home overlooked the well-trimmed fairways of the Hiwan Country Club, where he, his wife and his son socialized with everyone who was anyone in Evergreen, including conservative brewing magnate, Joseph Coors.
Still, as he was achieving so much success in the business world, something was lacking. About four years ago, Jack Hinckley went through a spiritual conversion. He turned more and more of the daily operations of his corporation over to his ambitious son Scott and became more active in charity work.
"Before he went through the conversion process, he was just an aggressive businessman," said Ainsworth, director of a group of religious ministries for which Jack Hinckley did volunteer work."His goals were to make the family business grow, to be a success, to have a nice house and three cars in the garage. He said he just got turned off by that and tried to find something new. He said he began a conversion process to bring a new direction to his life. He just no longer saw chasing a dollar bill as a proper objective in life."
The objects of Jack Hinckley's religious efforts were two disparate organizations. The first was a small Denver mission for alcoholics, derelicts and other indigent lost souls. The Chapel Mission was located in the rundown underbelly of Denver only a few blocks away from the corporate headquarters of Vanderbilt.Jack Hinckley grew interested in the mission and its lonely people and openly contributed his time there.
In the very same period in which his business began to boom, Jack Hinckley, occasionally accompanied by Scott Hinckley, ventured to the mission after work and on Saturdays and Sundays, and stood there pouring coffee or offering prayers and doughnuts to the line of poor ragged men.
Jack Hinckley's experiences at the mission, his exposure to human suffering there, "began to open his eyes," as one associate, Robert Latta, put it.Eventually, Hinckley turned his attention to another organization, World Vision International, a large humanitarian organization that raises funds and specializes in aiding developing countries.
About 2 1/2 years ago, Jack Hinckley volunteered his services to World Vision after hearing a speech in downtown Denver given by an official of the organization. Since then, he has contributed money and his expertise in oil and water drilling to Third World countries through that ministry. During a trip last year to Africa and South America, Jack Hinckley shared his most hidden fears and feelings of guilt about his troubled younger son.
"We agreed before the trip that we would pray together each morning for half an hour," said Ainsworth, who accompanied Hinckley on the journey. "We initially shared our mutual concerns about our families and flaws. I became a close friend of his, intimate. When you're thrown together like we were, you tend to let down the facade we all carry with us every day.
"He would confide in me his prayers. He asked me to pray for his son John, primarily because he didn't have direction in his life. Not that he was afraid John would do something as horrible as what he has been charged with, but that he was worried about his son.
"He said the boy didn't have goals and was aimless. Jack said he wasn't able to communicate with his son as much as he wanted, that there just wasn't communication. And there wasn't an agreement as to what the underlying problem was. He said he had approached his son on a number of occasions but wasn't making any headway. He took his own share of responsibility and said he felt guilty about not being able to communicate well enough.
"The problems began long before Jack came close to the Lord. Jack knew he was partially responsible for that, somehow," Ainsworth concluded. "He felt the boy had just drifted away."
But Jack Hinckley's most poignant expressions of pain and sadness over his youngest child came late last October, when he and his wife hosted a dinner for Latta, a World Vision fund raiser.
"It was a lovely dinner, under candlelight," Latta recalled. "He took out a photo album and showed me pictures of his family. We talked briefly about each of his children. Basically, he had a big smile when he talked about the older son, who has been so successful in the business, and his daughter, who is happily married.
"But when he got to John, Jack's face dropped," Latta said. "He said, 'He's got some real problems that he's trying to work out for himself.' I didn't push it. I didn't really know what he meant then. But looking back, that dinner was right about the time his son was arrested in Nashville for carrying guns at the airport."
Of all the places John Jr. turned up on his travels through Denver, no one ever remembers seeing him at his father's company headquarters in a 26-story downtown office building. Jack Hinckley kept a picture of his wife and daughter on his desk, but no photographs of his sons.
An innkeeper recalls John Jr. staying at the Stonewall Motel in Denver sometime in October. On Oct. 20, he applied for writing or circulation jobs that paid more than $4 an hour at both the Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post. He gave his parents' address as home, and listed his skills as writing, proofreading and typing at 30 words a minute. He also claimed work experiences -- salesman in Hollywood, bartender in Denver, bookkeeper in Dallas -- that proved to be either lies or exaggerations.
But the fact that he was looking for work gave hope to the father.
"Three years ago John Jr. came up in conversation in response to a question to Jack about his children," said Clarence Netherland, a friend of the Hinckleys for more than 25 years, and acting chairman of the board of Vanderbilt Energy. "He said, 'All the family's well except for John who's left home and picked up the guitar. He's started out to find a place in the music world. We don't know where he is, or how to get in touch with him. John's been gone several weeks and not called home.' As a parent he was real concerned about where he was. I said, 'Man I hope he surfaces soon.'"
Around this time, John Hinckley was under the care of a Denver psychiatrist, according to the family, and was receiving medication. "His evaluation did not alert anyone to the seriousness of his condition," the parents would say five months later in a statement read by a lawyer.
Some of Jack Hinckley's friends didn't even know to ask about John. "I didn't even know he existed," said Mike Wootten, acting president and board member of Vanderbilt Oil.
On some of his visits to Denver, Hinckley hung around Evergreen High School even though he had never been a student there. "Some of my girlfriends in the ninth grade introduced me to John in 1975," said 19-year-old Nadine Birkey, an Evergreen graduate. "I thought John was in high school. I thought he was one of the guys. He was with the real popular guys.He seemed nice looking. He seemed real popular and real happy."
Netherland remembers that when he asked about the family in November, Jack responded: "Everything's fine. I'm real pleased that John is back in the Denver area looking for work. He's talking to the local papers trying to do some writing!" The father, recalls Netherland, was delighted."I just commented that I hope he's back for good, and he said, 'I do too!'" Chapter 5: The Obsession
The New Year began under the shadow of John Lennon's early December death. On Jan. 21, Hinckley bought another gun, a .38, from George Gangler who used to be a salesman at a motorcycle and gun store in Denver.
"He just wanted a cheap .38," said Gangler, remembering that Hinckley seemed more interested in just owning a .38 than having a particular brand. He paid $148.35 for a Charter Arms Undercover revolver. Hinckley now had a trio of handguns identical in caliber to the three seized in Nashville. And once again, apparently in late February, he set out for New Haven.
He reportedly checked into the Sheraton Park Plaza Hotel there on March 1 and stayed two nights. The hotel refuses to confirm whether he was a guest. Hinckley was seen on the afternoon of March 1 in a bakery called Lucibello's by two Yale students Allan Dailey and Steven Wentworth. Hinckley was buying cookies. They remember his saying, "Oh, you guys go to Yale? My girlfriend goes there." He plucked a picture of Jodie Foster out of a pocket.Wentworth and Dailey just laughed.
Hinckley made a graphic impression on a number of Yale students living in Jodie Foster's dorm. "I live at Welch and I have seen that guy Hinckley over here," said one. "He was here in March, hanging around outside the door. At first I thought he was a jock.You know, he was heavy and sort of greasy and he really didn't seem very bright. It was a little weird but there are always people hanging around here so we didn't pay much attention. But then I saw him again and he asked something like 'Does Jody live here?' I thought, 'How strange.' Some of us made a joke about it and started calling him Mr. Toxic Shock. In a couple of days, he was gone and we sort of forgot about it."
In early March, Jodie Foster received three or four love letters signed J. W. H. and John W. Hinckley that had been slipped under her door. The persistence of the man caused her on March 6 to turn them over to her college dean.They were subsequently given to the Yale campus police and are now in the possession of the FBI.
By March 8, Hinckley was back in the West, following what seems to have been his restless backtracking pattern of cross-country travel. He checked into a grimy motel on Colfax Avenue called The Golden Hours. He wanted "a cheap place to stay" he said, and he got one. For $74.20 a week, Room 30 upstairs in the squat weather-worn building looked out on billboards, a Ford dealership and a McDonald's. Traffic droned by without respite on the neon strip, and the air was sour with smells of exhaust. In the hallway, a tattered rubber mat covered the concrete floor.
His parents' mountain-view home was a 45-minute drive away, but no one at the motel knew that.
"He never talked about his past or about his family. To me, he was real lonesome. He always walked around with his hands in his pockets and his head down," recalled Stacey Aucourt, who works as a maid at The Golden Hours and regularly cleaned his room. "He never opened the curtains in his room. All day long they were closed."
For four days early in March, Hinckley showed up for dinner at the Denver Rescue Mission where his father and his brother a few years earlier had served coffee and doughnuts to the down-and-out.
"He was very neat," said Albert Arthur, assistant director of the mission.
"That's one of the reasons I remember him. Here at the mission we usually see street people. That's the reason he stood out. Many of the men remember seeing him in the chapel. They remember him coming in with the guitar but they never talked to him."
Each morning at the motel, Hinckley popped in to read the Rocky Mountain News in the office, taking it to his room and later returning it. He wore sneakers, blue jeans and a khaki jacket. After reading, he headed off in a white Volare for what he said was his job at the Independent Record Shop in Denver. He never worked there.
In the 16 days Hinckley stayed at The Golden Hours, he received no mail. He ate fast-food from the McDonald's across the street. He made 34 local phone calls. The only possessions he seemed to have were a tape deck on which he played cassettes of John Lennon's music and songs by the Eagles. There were a few albums in his otherwise barren room. He also had an electric guitar and a typewriter. He hocked them both on March 11 for $100 at GI Joe's Pawnshop in Lakewood, where he gave the proprietor a false address, took the money and got directions to the bus station.
On March 11, the movie playing at the Ogden Theatre, two miles down Colfax Avenue from The Golden Hours, was "Taxi Driver," starring Robert DeNiro and Jodie Foster. Federal investigators believe Hinckley saw the movie there somewhere else several times. In addition, reading material relating to the movie was found among his possessions.
On March 18 around 5 p.m., a Lakewood patrolman's suspicions were aroused by a man he saw crossing from the Golden Hours Motel to McDonald's.
"I've been a policeman for eight years," said Officer Chris Warsham. "You see a man acting unusual, you just get a feeling. The man was just staring at me; he was just locked in on me. What made me suspicious was that he was watching me so much he wasn't even looking at the traffic, and that's a busy street at 5 o'clock."
Warsham made a U-turn and went back. He waited until the man left the McDonald's, then questioned the clerk at the motel and ran a check on the car.
"I went upstairs to Room 30 to knock on the door. I just was suspicious because he acted so nervous," Warsham recalled. "I knocked on the door. There was no answer. I was a little worried and I did something I rarely do -- I drew my gun from the holster. I don't really know what I really would have done if he was there."
Later that evening, Warsham finally confronted John Hinckley. The young man was wearing rose-colored sunglasses and it was after dark. "I asked him if he was John Hinckley and he said 'Yessir' very properly. I was going to ask him more questions but a call came over the radio. I never saw him again. I can't think of any other time I actually drew a gun just on a feeling there was something wrong."
On the morning of March 23, Hinckley simply disappeared for good. "He didn't say anything to anybody about checking out," said Ginger Aucourt, mother of Stacey and also a maid at the motel. "He waved at me through the windshield."
No one at the motel knew he had left until they found his room key.
Hinckley parked his car in his parents' garage in Evergreen on March 25 and made his way to Stapleton International Airport. He paid $89 for a flight to Los Angeles via Salt Lake City which was cheaper than the direct route. Western Airlines flight 45 departed at 11:45, and, after a connection in Salt Lake, Hinckley arrived in Los Angeles at around 2 p.m. on Western flight 257. Nobody knows where he spent the night although FBI agents scrutinized one month's worth of guest cards at the Sunset Arms motel on Sunset Boulevard, about a block from the photo studio where Hinckley applied for a job in 1977.
On March 26, at the Greyhound Bus Terminal at 6th and Los Angeles streets in downtown, L.A., he boarded a bus for a trip across the continent to Washington. Chapter 6: Washington
The last act of the tragic odyssey that began years ago in The Bubble was played out after a grueling four-day ride that took Hinckley, with a two-suiter suitcase and the gun he bought at Rocky's, back, in an old reflection of the randomness of his life, to Salt Lake City, from which he had just come, then on to Cleveland, Pittsburgh and ultimate arrival in one of the most squalid sections of the nation's capital.
He arrived at the Greyhound bus station on New York Avenue at 12:15 p.m. and weaved his way past passengers and street people congregated in the grimy terminal. He left no impressions on anyone there.
That night, after checking into the Park Central Hotel at 18th and G STREETS NW, Hinckley wandered back past the White House to the show bars and movie houses and pornography shops clustered around the 14th Street corridor. Gordon Johnson, a 27-year-old clerk at the Plain Brown Wrapper -- "Purveyors of Fine Smut since 1976," said he remembered Hinckley from the pictures that flashed across his television set the next night.
Johnson, who said he is gay, recalled that Hinckley, clad in jeans, came into the store alone "a little after 9 p.m." He said he tried to "cruise" Hinckley because he liked his looks, but Hinckley did not respond to him. Despite the store's 15-minute browsing limit, the clerk said Hinckley stayed in the store for about an hour, but did not buy anything.
Johnson said the quiet man browsed in the heterosexual section of the book racks and spent most of his time in front of four racks of bondage magazines. Briefly he went back to view a peep show. At one point Johnson, trying to strike up a conversation, reminded the man about the browsing-time limit. "Yeah, okay," was all he said.
The next morning at 8:30, Hinckley ate breakfast alone in the hotel restaurant.At 10 a.m., a maid entered his room and found his suitcase open. On the night table were a copy of TV Guide, a telephone and a small alarm clock. He had a clipping of John Lennon lyrics and a button of the slain musician. At 12:45 p.m., Hinckley wrote a last letter to Jodie Foster. It began, "Dear Jodie, There is a definite possibility that I will be killed in my attempt to get Reagan."
It ended, "I love you forever."
Sometime after 1:15 p.m., when the maid returned to the room and furnished its occupant with a pillowslip, Hinckley, his gun loaded with six bullets, went to the Washington Hilton Hotel on Connecticut Avenue. He had read a morning paper, seen the president's Monday schedule, and knew Reagan would be there.
He stood in a spring rain outside the building with other curious passersby, waiting for the president to exit. As the crowd grew larger, he was able to squeeze his way into a waiting area normally reserved for the press. At 2:25 p.m., the president, escorted by a crew of Secret Sevice agents and aides, came out smiling and waving.
What ensued was a surreal and horrific scene captured and played back dozens of times on television. A gun was fired. Six reports. Three men fell. Screams and shouts, people dropping for cover, cries of "My God! My God!" Reagan was whisked away, and half a dozen agents and D.C. police officers smotherd Hinckley against a wall. No matter how many times a viewer watched, the person who fired the gun was just a bit of tan coat, a swatch of sandy hair, and a half-seen face in a crowd. Epilogue
By the end of the week, rain had scoured away the blood that had spilled onto the Hilton sidewalk. The FBI had sealed John Hinckley Jr.'s room at the Park Central, plugging even the keyhole with red wax. Mr. and Mrs. Hinckley, who had vowed to stand by their son, visited him at the Federal Correctional Institute in Butner, N.C., where he is undergoing psychiatric examinations.
In Evergreen, where the switch boards were jammed with 30,000 calls one hour after the shooting, the frenzy had subsided.All week long there, the parents of the young man accused of trying to assassinate the president found sanctuary at the home of neighbor William Sells.
"Picture total devastation, shock and great sorrow -- that's the picture," Sells said Friday. "But there was a tremendous outpouring of support from all over the country. The phone never stopped ringing, from hundreds of strangers across the country, offering support, and prayers and sympathy. This helped the Hinckleys through the week. So many parents were calling and saying: 'There but for the grace of God go I.'"
On Saturday afternoon, one day after visiting their son at the psychiatric wing of the Federal Correctional Institute in Butner, N.C., Jack and Jo Ann Hinckley issued the following statement:
We visited our son John recently and are pleased with the manner in which he has been treated and protected.
We are all very grateful for God's mercies in the miraculous ways in which He has sustained the lives of The President, Mr. Brady, Agent McCarthy, and Officer Delahanty, and, or course, we pray constantly for their continued recovery to full health, and for the comfort of their families.
We also cannot begin to express our gratitude for the outpouring of prayers and offers of help that we have received from all over the country in this time of terrible need. We are overwhelmed by it and thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts.
We are joining in the prayers of millions for The President and the other victims and their families. We ask that you join us in prayers for our son John.
We have seen certain press reports that we believe to be inaccurate. We simply ask that you realize John is a sick boy, and that you give him the benefit of the doubt until all the true facts concerning his mental condition are known.