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Family and colleagues remember attorney Lt. Col. James R. Hinton

Legal News Reporter

Published: January 13, 2021

An astute trial lawyer, Lt. Col. James Reiter Hinton was known for his unique and effective cross-examination techniques, said his former colleague, attorney Dean Konstand. 
“I considered Jim to be my mentor,” said Konstand. “We shared office space for many years and during that time we were co-counsel on several cases. 
“What I remember most about Jim was the way he cross-examined witnesses,” Konstand said. “Typically, cross-examination was done from the podium, but Jim did things differently. He would stand next to the witness so both he and the witness were facing the jury. The witness would appear less credible and had no place to look but directly at the jury. It was like a parent looking into the eyes of a fibbing child.”
During his long career, Hinton tried numerous cases, including one that ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Dad was a voracious researcher, who took on a variety of legal issues, including wrongful death, criminal, personal injury, corporate law and medical malpractice,” said Hinton’s son James H. Hinton, an associate broker and sales manager for Cutler Real Estate.
“He was a strong man, who believed in fairness,” said James. “He helped a lot of people during his lifetime.”
On Oct. 23, 2020 Hinton passed away at the age of 88.
“My father was the glue that held our family together,” said James. “He was proud of all of his children and he was always around to help us with anything we needed. It was the same with his grandchildren.”
Born on Sept. 22, 1932 in Akron, Ohio, he was the eldest of James Melbourne Hinton and Alma Reiter Hinton’s four children.
Raised on the family farm in Copley, Ohio, Hinton graduated from Copley High School, where he was a quarterback and captain of the football team. He was inducted into the Copley High School Athletic Hall of Fame and won “best hair” in his senior class, something his son said he continued to be proud of his entire life.
Hinton received his bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University and his juris doctor from The Ohio State University College of Law. He was elected to the Order of the Coif and was a member of the ROTC.
After graduating, Hinton enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as a First Lieutenant and entered flight training, flying C-130s. He then joined the U.S. Attorney General’s Office in Washington D.C. and began his legal career as part of the JAG (Judge Advocate General’s) Corps. As a reservist, he assisted JAG officers and was appointed to the Selective Service Department during the Vietnam War.
Hinton retired from the Air Force in 1982 as a lieutenant colonel, receiving many accolades.
“My father loved God, family, country and the law,” said James. “He was very proud of serving his country.”
Hinton was also the chairman of the American Red Cross Military Service Committee, where he volunteered to help veteran families, especially those returning from Vietnam.
“My dad represented soldiers who were injured or were prisoners of war in legal matters and he handled their estates if they passed,” said James.
After Hinton returned to Akron, he joined his father’s law firm Hinton, Konstand & Landi. 
“Jim’s father and my father started that practice back in the 1940s,” said Dean Konstand.  
Later, Hinton became a sole practitioner, sharing office space with Konstand among others. 
In the 1980s, Hinton represented clients in a number of financial cases in which sole practitioner Donald Hicks was opposing counsel. 
“Jim was a zealous advocate for his clients,” said Hicks. “In the first case we had together, I was a new lawyer and was dragging out negotiations so my client could gather up money. Jim called often and I kept delaying.
“During one call, we got to talking about college football. I didn't realize that Jim was a devout Ohio State fan and I mentioned that I had grown up in Michigan and that my wife had been born in Ann Arbor. I'm not sure that helped my standing with him. But a couple of weeks later, Ohio State played Michigan and the Buckeyes won. 
“Not long after we talked again and settled the case,” said Hicks. “Jim never mentioned that the Wolverines had lost. He didn't have to. I was glad to send him the settlement check. To his credit, Jim was always collegial, civil and professional, even when dealing with a new lawyer like me.” 
While Hinton’s enthusiasm for Ohio State and its football team did influence his son James and daughter Deborah to attend the school, none of his four children became lawyers.
However, his son’s friend, Sean Vollman said Hinton did play a key role in his decision to embark on a legal career.
“I’ve known Jim Hinton since I was probably in first grade,” said Vollman, an assistant law director for the city of Akron. “Growing up he was my Little League coach. I would say he was the first lawyer that I remember meeting.
“Mr. Hinton encouraged me to be a lawyer from grade school on. When I was younger he brought his son and me to court and we watched him try cases. He introduced us to the judge afterward. He was definitely a role model for the law and life in general.
 “He was always there for his children,” Vollman said. “He was at every single one of Jimmy’s soccer games videotaping. He was one of the biggest Ohio State fans to ever walk the face of the Earth. He was single-handedly responsible for me, and probably many of my friends, becoming fans. He would have us over every year to watch Ohio State games, a tradition his son has carried on hosting the annual party for the Ohio State vs. Michigan game.”
Although their practices never overlapped, Vollman said he heard many stories about Hinton’s hard-fought efforts to help clients in eminent domain cases. 
“I was told that if the government wanted your property, Jim Hinton was the man to hire,” said Vollman. “He would get you the best deal possible.”
U.S. District Judge John Adams, who serves in the Northern District of Ohio first met Hinton in the early 1980s.
“At the time I was a law clerk at Summit County Probate Court,” said Judge Adams. “I dealt with him whenever he had filings and I also knew him by reputation.
“Jim was always quiet, reserved and very professional. I had a great deal of respect for him as an attorney,” said Judge Adams. “Later I got to know his daughter and I came to think of him as a friend. Still, I didn’t realize the full scale of his accomplishments until after I read of his passing.”
Outside of the legal profession, Hinton served on the school board of St. Hilary in Fairlawn and was a member of the St. Victor Parish in Richfield, where he was a lector and Eucharistic minister. Hinton also played a key role in the establishment of the St. Victor Parish Foundation, a nonprofit organization that benefits present and future generations of the parish.
Hinton was a huge animal lover, said James.
“My father had several four-legged companions: Nikki, Woo, Cody and Foxy to name a few of them,” said James. “At one time or another, he also had cats, a goat, a pony, a Llama and a sheep. He even owned a cattle farm in southern Ohio for a short period of time.
“One of his favorite hobbies was photography,” said James. “He created his own studio in his basement for portraits and turned the laundry room into a darkroom to develop his pictures.”
James said his father loved the water and spent much of his free time boating on Lake Erie.
Hinton was also passionate about fitness, lifting weights into his 80s.
“He was a ‘do it yourself’ kind of guy,” said James. “He dug an indoor swimming pool by hand and finished his basement with an area that served as his home office, gym, portrait studio and entertainment area with a bar and pool table.”
During his lifetime, he attended numerous events for his children and grandchildren.
“If my father wasn’t coaching football or baseball, he was capturing videos of performances, events and sports,” said James. “His five grandchildren all had a special place in his heart.”
Hinton was laid to rest on Oct. 30 at Ohio Western Reserve National Cemetery.
He is survived by his brother Ralph (Betty) Hinton and his sister Carol (Robert Mouck). Hinton also leaves behind four children: Deborah Sloan (Doug), Christina Hinton, James H. Hinton, Colleen Hinton-Hanson and five grandchildren, Riley Hanson, Brian Sloan, Ben Sloan, Nicole Hinton and Jack Hinton.
His parents James Melbourne Hinton and Alma Reiter Hinton and his brother Jere Hinton (wife Molly) preceded him in death.