Alumni Spotlight

Doug Hinkle, '53J

By: Michelle Goff
December 15, 2015

Doug Hinkle’s connection to the University of Pikeville began in 1927 – years before he was even born.

Doug, an alumnus of the Pikeville College Junior College, a former University of Pikeville trustee, and a long-time benefactor to the institution, explains, “My dad, Oran Hinkle, was the first graduate of Martin County High School. He lived on a 178-acre family farm two and a half miles out of Inez. He rode a horse to high school every day.”

After graduation, Doug’s father earned an emergency teaching certificate and began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse, which he reached in the winter by skating on frozen creeks.

“Dad saved up money from teaching and in 1927 he completed a semester at Pikeville College (then a two-year junior college). He would either walk or catch the mail hack from Martin County to Lawrence County and then catch a train to Pikeville,” Doug says.

The elder Hinkle continued to attend college one semester at a time, but his educational dreams were nearly derailed during the Great Depression when the bank that held his money closed its doors.

“When he couldn’t get his money out of the bank, the college let him go here free,” Doug says. “They let him stay in the dorm and eat in the cafeteria for as long as it took for him to get his money.”

Doug’s mother, Ruby Fannin Hinkle, as well as two aunts, Everal Neeley and Rose Hobson, also attended the junior college. When it came time for Doug to attend college, he continued the family tradition.

“I had offers to play basketball at Pikeville College and Lees Junior College,” Doug recalls. “I came up here and I had to work as part of the program. I worked as a janitor two hours a day. I buffed every floor in this building.”

Although he lived on campus, when Doug visited his home in Martin County, he usually hitchhiked to get there.

“If you wore an Inez High School jacket or a Pikeville College jacket, drivers would pick you up,” he recalls. “By that time, my dad had a car and sometimes he would take me to Paintsville and I’d ride a train to the bottom of the hill.”

While at college, Doug took a class in public speaking, which he credits with helping him to become more comfortable talking in front of a group of people. He didn’t have a chance, however, to apply this newfound confidence in his dating life.

“They’d lock the girls up at dark,” he says. “On Monday night, they’d line them up and we’d walk to the theatre. We sat together with the teachers looking on.”
Doug, who played point guard for the college’s basketball team, also recalls a time when the team was enlisted as firefighters.

“All the food was grown on the Francis Farm,” he explains. “One time there was a fire on the farm and they gathered the basketball team together and took us to fight fire. When we got back, they rousted the cooks and they made fried bologna and fried potatoes for us and served it with milk. This was 11 or 12 at night.”

After completing two years at Pikeville, Doug moved on to Morehead State University to finish his degree. Fate intervened, however, in the form of the Korean War. Volunteering to serve in the U.S. Army, Doug was stationed in Hawaii. While there, he continued his correspondence with Judith Walters, a girl he’d met during his time in Pikeville.

“I got a 30-day leave and she left school and we got married. Philip Bembower, the dean of the college, married us,” Doug says.

When he finished his service in the army, Doug and his bride returned to Kentucky. Both ultimately earned their degrees and started teaching. Doug was working as a principal for an elementary school and as assistant principal of a high school, both in Martin County, and helping his dad run two farms when he received an offer to become principal of Pikeville High School. A few years after returning to Pikeville, his father-in-law, Walter P. Walters, asked him to come work at his insurance company.

“Mr. Walters was on the board here and was a contributor to the college,” Doug says. “He was old enough to retire and said, ‘Whatever they’re paying you at the school, I’ll pay you the same if you’ll come here and learn the business. I will make arrangements to sell it to you.’”

Doug eventually took over the business and, at one time, insured 114 churches, 126 coal companies, and eight banks out of the business’ five branches in Pikeville, Hazard, Richmond, Martin, and Inez.

“I was the luckiest man in the world,” he says.

After 40 years in the business, Doug sold Walter P. Walters to Acordia of Eastern Kentucky. He and Judith, who retired after 27 years of teaching, now divide their time between Pikeville and Florida. The couple, who have one daughter and two grandchildren, celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in November.

“The college has meant an awful lot to my family,” he says. “Judith went all the way from the training school to the academy to the college here. Her grandmother, Elizabeth Syck, was in the first graduating class of the college. But the Hinkles have a history here, too. Just about all of my family went here. I went here two years and received a good education. I didn’t pay for anything, not even books.”

He continues, “A lot of people have that same story. This college has helped a lot of people in eastern Kentucky who couldn’t have gone to school anywhere else. Judith and I have tried to give back to help someone else. This will always be my school.”

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