ALBANY — Steve Hinton was known far and wide as an artist. But many who knew him during his time in Albany knew him by other titles: philanthropist, public radio promoter, travel agent, deeply knowledgeable conversationalist, devoted family man and for at least one, life-changer.
Two of those titles apply for Cathy Bradley, whose first encounter with Hinton was when he hired her to manage the office at Jim Hinton Oil Co. in Albany.
Hinton, who was born in Chattanooga, Tennesse in 1952 and moved to Albany in 1982 with wife Bronwyn, died on Feb. 28.
“I was a 26-year-old single mom,” Bradley said as she remembered the renowned artist. “I was making $3.65 an hour, and he hired me to be office manager. He put his trust in me and he taught me so much.”
The opportunity turned out to be much more than a great job for Bradley, however. Hinton funded her first trip out of the country, a trip to Cancun, and gave her an awesome itinerary when she took her son to New Orleans.
The bags Hinton packed for her went to Jamaica as she went to Mexico, but she said she still had a great time. While on the trip to New Orleans Bradley discovered an envelope with money inside her purse that Hinton placed there so that she could dine at a restaurant he had recommended.
“He was more than a boss; he was like a brother, plus he was like a friend,” said Bradley, who recalled his daughters playing under her desk when they were little. “He really took an interest in me other than as an employee. He taught me how to travel. He opened my whole world to a different perspective.”
As a high school graduate from a small town, Hinton opened up Bradley’s world to art as well, taking her on one occasion to an art show in Chattanooga.
“I just cannot express how much he changed my life,” she said. “It’s hard to support a child and be on your own, and I don’t know what I would have done without him. It’s going to be a sadder place without him.”
A Georgia Artist of the Year, Hinton frequently donated his work for auction to benefit organizations in the community.
Hinton’s generosity, both financially and of spirit, extended to the entire community, said Ira Roth, a veterinarian who served on the board and as president of the Albany Museum of Art prior to leaving Albany.
“He put so much time, money into the museum,” Roth said. “It was just part of his life.”
Hinton entertained frequently at his rural residence near the Baker County line, and friends often stopped by to hear what was on his mind.
Whatever topic Hinton had to speak about, it was bound to be something interesting, and his discussions showed his great depth of knowledge, friends said of time spent at the house.
“It was always worth it,” Roth said. “He was a Southern gentleman. He never neglected you. He made sure you had something to drink. I’m sitting here thinking about all the things you could say about him. To know him, to have him as a friend is something you always aspired to do.
“He loved the people he knew. He loved life in general.”
Hinton often incorporated friends and local figures into his artwork as caricatures. On one occasion, the artist did such a treatment for the Roth family’s traditional Sunday lunch, a treasure that is still hanging in their living room.
“He was never mean” in drawing those caricatures, Roth said. “It was always a reflection of you at the time.”
Whenever he was with Hinton, much of the talk always revolved around his wife and daughters, said John Powell, also a former museum board president.
“I don’t think you could say Steve without Steve and Bronwyn,” Powell said. “They were a team. He took great pride in his two girls, Brownyn and his two girls. They did so much for the community. He and Bronwyn were all about opportunities for the disadvantaged as well as the young people, giving them opportunities, not just in art but in general. He had a lot of talent, and he shared his talent and time.”
When Hinton realized Albany wasn’t served by National Public Radio, he stepped in and helped ensure residents in the area would have access, Powell said.
“He always made time for the museum,” the former board president said. “It was a true love for him. As a result, the museum — and its programs — would not be what it is today without Steve Hinton. He was very compassionate and caring, and he was extremely generous.”