Cliff Hinkle, born Nov. 3, 1948, passed away surrounded by his loved ones on the morning of Dec. 5, 2015, at the Big Bend Hospice House.
Even though he battled early-onset Alzheimer’s for 10 years, the care he received from his wife and primary caregiver Lee, son Ross, and friend Sarah Portillo, among many others, made his journey as comfortable as possible until the end.
Cliff was fortunate to live an extraordinary 67 years. A native son, born in Apalachicola and raised in Tallahassee with three siblings, he leaves a deep and lasting imprint on his family, friends, colleagues and the many local and national organizations with whom he was affiliated, including his alma mater Florida State University. He has been described by family, friends and professional colleagues around the country as a brilliant, multi-talented and compassionate man who could be counted on to contribute to any situation with a focus, humility and degree of wisdom that always matched the moment. Cliff was also known for his exquisite taste in bowties, long after they were fashionable.
He graduated Florida High University School in 1966, and continued his educational career at the Florida State University College of Business (B.A., 1971) and Nova Southeastern University where he earned master’s (M.P.A.) and doctoral degrees (D.P.A.) in public administration. While many people knew of his degree from FSU, few ever knew of his graduate degrees. He was reliably more interested in helping others than receiving recognition for his accomplishments.
Although Cliff shared with and contributed to many friends and colleagues over the years, he always saved his most intimate and profound moments for his family. Cliff enjoyed a wonderful life with Lee, his bride of 31 years. They found great joy in their shared interests of family, politics, literature, music and the arts. Both were active in the community and supported many charitable organizations. They traveled and explored the world together, along with family and longtime friends.
He also loved and was deeply proud of his only child, Ross, who became the father of his own son, Ari, just a month ago. Some of his and Ross’ most precious memories included the many years they enjoyed playing golf and basketball, hiking, playing and listening to music, and the hours spent sharing with one another in a long-running conversation about life. He left a legacy of love, integrity and a deep commitment to family and friends for his son and grandson to follow.
Cliff would have loved teaching Ari many things, including how to swim. As a teenager, he was a lifeguard at the YMCA where he taught scores of local children to swim. Lee has had numerous adults approach her over the years and share that Cliff was such a great teacher who not only gave them swimming lessons, he gave them confidence.
Always active in sports, he was known for being a fierce yet light-hearted competitor. An avid golfer, he loved competing, especially with his younger brothers Bob and Don. According to Lee, he also played softball until “long after he should have!” To his younger sister Jeanie, Cliff was a father figure, mentor, and tormentor after their father died in 1982, and they shared a love of music that endured until the end.
As a lover of music, Cliff played the guitar, banjo and harmonica all of his adult life. Even as Alzheimer’s slowly robbed him of meaningful speech, he made his voice heard through his music. Humming along to his strumming became a calming means of communication for Cliff. Until this year, he joined his wife in bringing awareness to how the local non-profit organization, the Alzheimer’s Project, assists both patients and their caregivers as they share the painful journey of the long goodbye. Annually they organized a large, supportive team to raise money and awareness for the organization at its’ Forget Me Not Walk.
At the age of 24, Cliff was appointed the third Leon County administrator, a position he held from 1972-1977. At the time, he was one of the youngest county administrators in the country. He was responsible for the acquisition of the federal land that became Tom Brown Park and also represented the county in the efforts that produced the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center.
Since 1977, Cliff was in the investment business as a banker, financial consultant, and portfolio manager. He spent four years (1987-1991) as the executive director and chief investment officer for the Florida Retirement System pension funds. While there he created and implemented a set of investment principles, including policies and procedures that survive to this day, and more than doubled funds under management during his tenure. Those principles led to Florida’s pension fund becoming the one of the largest retirement portfolios in the nation.
At the time of his diagnosis, Cliff was chairman and chief executive officer of Flagler Holdings Inc., a merchant banking firm founded in 1996. He was also a partner in Murphy, Middleton, Hinkle and Parker (MMHP), an investment management company based in Thomasville, Georgia. In addition to the time he spent running Flagler, he was the past CEO or president of several other successful companies and served on the boards of numerous foundations, charitable organizations and publicly traded companies.
Cliff’s love for Florida State University ran deep. His wife, father, brothers, sister and sisters-in-law are all FSU graduates. His mother attended FSU until she began raising a family, and his grandmother was a graduate of the Florida State College for Women. Cliff shared his sage advice with FSU for many years, volunteering his time and knowledge on its behalf, including service as chair of the FSU Foundation Board of Trustees. In 2008, he was honored by the faculty senate with one of three prestigious Torch Awards, the VIRES Torch Award, honoring friends of Florida State who have contributed significantly to FSU’s ability to fulfill its academic mission.
Cliff is the son of Lena “Jimmie” Chauncey Hinkle and the late Jene Lewis Hinkle. He is also survived by his wife, Lee Hinkle, his son Ross Hinkle (Noa Tishby), his 4-week-old grandson Ari Ford Tishby Hinkle, of Los Angeles, California, his brothers Robert (Marylou) and Don (fiancée Mimi Graham), his sister Jeanie Hinkle, all of Tallahassee, as well as seven nieces, six nephews, three great-nieces, two great-nephews and his cats, Pogo and Daisy, who ran the house.
A celebration of Cliff’s life is planned for Monday, Dec. 14 at 4 p.m. It will be held at the FSU Alumni Center Ballroom, 1030 W. Tennessee St. in Tallahassee. For those interested, the family suggests memorial donations be made to the Tallahassee-based Alzheimer’s Project at alzheimersproject.org or via mail to 301 East Tharpe St., Tallahassee, FL, 32303.
Rocky Bevis and Kelly Barber of Bevis Funeral Home are assisting the family with their arrangements.