THEODORE HINSON was for many years a powerful politician in Camden. He began working for the city in the 1960s and was appointed Director of Public Works in 1976. He served during the 1980s and 1990s as Executive Director of the Camden Parking Authority. He resigned as Executive Director in 1995. He subsequently was nominated by Democrat county committee chairman David Luthman to sit on the Board of Elections.
He became chairman of the city's Democratic Committee in 1991 and was considered an essential cog in the county Democrat organization led by George Norcross.
Ted Hinson also at one time was in business as a bar owner, at 789 Chestnut Street in South Camden. The bar, then known as Just Pals, was sold to Betty Sawyer in the late 1980s, who renamed it Krystal Lounge.
Ted Hinson passed away on October 16, 2010 at the age of 77. He was survived by his wife, Novella Starks-Hinson, herself a powerful force in Camden politics and city government, six children and a host of grandchildren and great-grand-children.
Any honest assessment of Camden city government since Hinson's rise to power in the 1970s places him, his wife and extended family squarely at the center of corruption in Camden city government. He may be gone, but the program has not changed.... Camden's political aristocracy continues to look out for itself at the expense of residents and taxpayers.
Philadelphia Inquirer * October 23, 2010
T. Hinson, leader in Camden
By Claudia Vargas
Theodore Hinson was the godfather to several generations of Camden's community activists - people who now serve as the city's movers and shakers, people like Mayor Dana L. Redd, Democratic Party leader George Norcross 3d, and former Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez.
The list of people whose political careers he guided as Camden City Democratic Party leader is equally long, including former Camden Mayor Melvin R. "Randy" Primas Jr. and former Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr.
He also helped residents of his native city by working in rodent control, in public works, and at the Parking Authority.
Though officially retired from all his posts, Mr. Hinson was still active behind the scenes in Camden's political world.
Mr. Hinson, 77, died of heart failure on Saturday, Oct. 16, at Cooper University Hospital.
"He helped out a lot, a lot, of people," said Dani Annise, a 50-year city employee.
During his time with the city committee, he attempted to make Camden a better place by putting young professionals in leadership roles.
In the mid-1970s, he met a young Norcross, just out of high school, who was eager to work on Democratic campaigns.
"He mentored me and many others," said Norcross, now a well-known party power broker and chairman of Cooper University Hospital. "He inspired younger people to get involved."
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Mr. Hinson reached out to Camden's young Democrats, who included Redd and Ed Williams, current director of planning and development.
"There was a lack of young folks involved," Williams said, adding that Mr. Hinson focused on "expanding the political base."
In 1987, Roberts was starting to give his concession speech in his first run for a seat in the General Assembly, when Camden City's votes came in and turned the results around, recalled Mr. Hinson's wife, Novella.
Roberts ended up serving 22 years in the Assembly, retiring last year. Mr. Hinson was able to campaign and elect many South Jersey politicians, just as he did with Roberts.
"He believed in inclusion," Cruz-Perez said. "It was about Camden City working together."
He was willing to help anyone who shared his passion for Camden, Redd said. "I learned from working with him . . . the importance of doing the right thing for Camden," she said.
Mr. Hinson was born and raised in Camden and attended Camden High School. When he turned 18, he joined the Navy and was involved in the Korean War.
After two years of military duty, Mr. Hinson worked several odd jobs in Camden until becoming an investigator for the Camden City Health Department in 1960. While working there, he met Novella Starks, and the couple married in 1968.
During the late 1960s, Mr. Hinson met former Camden Council President Elijah Perry and activist Charles "Poppy" Sharp, and was inspired by their influence in their communities, his wife said.
But Mr. Hinson had his own voice and quickly became an influential figure himself among Camden Democrats.
Mr. Hinson was project director of rodent and insect control for Camden City during the 1970s, before being promoted to director of public works in 1976.
He went back to rodent control in 1981 and was transferred to director of Camden County Rodent and Insect Control a year later. He remained in that job until 1991.
It was a dirty job, but "he was darned good at it," Annise said.
Mr. Hinson wanted city officials to put more resources toward the city's rat infestation problem, often considered a taboo, so he dropped a rat in the middle of City Hall one day, his wife recalled.
"He wanted to draw attention to it," she said.
Mr. Hinson also served as Camden school board president in the late 1970s.
He retired as executive director of Camden's Parking Authority in 1995, after several years on the job.
His leadership stood out and he inspired many young politicians, Redd said, but his legacy was "making sure we serve others."
In addition to his wife, Mr. Hinson is survived by sons Theodore Jr., Chad, and Peter, and daughters Melanie Green-Hynson, Rejaayah Cumberbatch, and Jill Adams; 10 grandchildren; three sisters and a brother. He is also survived by his first wife, Marlene Francis.
A viewing will be Monday, Oct. 25. The time and place have not been set. A funeral will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25, at Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, 1198 Penn St., Camden.
Interment will be at Camden County Veterans Cemetery, Camden.
Donations of money or new unwrapped toys in his name may be made to Teddy's Toys for Tots, Cooper's Ferry Development Association, One Port Center, 2 Riverside Dr., Suite 501, Camden, N.J.
Camden Courier-Post * October 23, 2010
Philadelphia Inquirer * December 5, 2012
What's behind naming Camden parking garage after Hinson?
The 18-inch-high, polished bronze letters spelling "Melvin R. Primas Jr. Camden City Hall" gleamed as throngs of elected officials and community leaders gathered last month for the official renaming of the building for the late mayor.
Just over two weeks before that, a different Camden edifice just blocks away, the waterfront garage, was named after another former city political figure - Theodore Hinson, the late executive director of the Parking Authority and chairman of the city Democratic Committee.
This renaming has not drawn much fanfare, but it is sparking criticism.
Hinson left his job under a cloud, the critics note. The authority went $1 million in the red during his tenure, and he was forced out amid accusations of wasteful spending.
Mayor Dana L. Redd responds that "the good far outweighs the bad. . . . He wanted to give everyone a job."
Redd, who was comptroller for the authority during Hinson's tenure in the early 1990s, said naming the garage after him is a "befitting tribute" because he worked hard with the redevelopment of the waterfront. "He really wanted to see Camden come back," she said.
It has been more than a month since the two silver-gray signs for the Theodore "Teddy" Hinson Waterfront Garage went up. A dedication ceremony is planned, Redd said Tuesday, but she did not say when it would occur.
The authority's current interim executive director, Lenny Bier, said its board wanted to acknowledge Hinson's contributions to the authority and the waterfront.
During his tenure as executive director, Hinson helped find funds to build the 720-space garage. He died in 2010.
"The family and I are honored," said Hinson's widow, Novella, who is Redd's chief of staff and who approved of the idea to name the garage after her husband. "Teddy [was] such a force in helping people for over 30 years. . . . His commitment to service is second to none."
But a former board member and a former official at the authority during Hinson's term are aghast that the garage is being dedicated to the former director.
"It's absolutely inappropriate," said Peter McHugh, a former authority board chairman, who started the investigation of Hinson's spending that led to a temporary state takeover of the authority.
During Hinson's reign, the payroll grew to a high of 131 employees. Some say the hiring spree misjudged the traffic expected from the imminent opening of the New Jersey State Aquarium, now the Adventure Aquarium, on Camden's waterfront.
The agency currently employs about 30 people.
City activist Frank Fulbrook says there was also a political motive in all the hiring under Hinson: The Parking Authority was a repository of patronage jobs, especially in 1993, when the city changed over to partisan elections and all seven City Council seats and the mayor's position were up for grabs, Fulbrook said.
"He had to keep the patronage jobs through June," Fulbrook said, suggesting Hinson was seeking to build support for the party slate.
The payroll expenditures left the authority with $1 million in debt. But according to Inquirer articles at the time and the recollections of McHugh and the former director of parking enforcement, Fernando L. Lugo, Hinson continued to spend extravagantly.
"A lot of things he was doing were under the radar - sending flowers and catering to people who had nothing to do with the Parking Authority," said Lugo, who retired this year after 26 years at the authority.
Hinson, who made $87,000 at the agency and drew criticism for his professional and personal use of two cellphones and a Lincoln Town Car courtesy of the authority, was forced by the state to take a salary cut and reduce spending.
Bier, a parking-management consultant hired last year to run the authority, was also the rescue man in the mid-1990s.
He said the authority's debt at the time was due to lack of activity on the waterfront.
"The aquarium's revenue dropped significantly. ... Sony theater didn't open until 1998, there was no Children's Garden," Bier said. (The Blockbuster-Sony outdoor concert venue is now named the Susquehanna Bank Center.)
The waterfront garage opened in 1992 to provide parking for the aquarium, which opened that year, and for future developments such as the Delaware River Port Authority administration building, Bier said.
The $8 million garage was financed through grants and a New Jersey Urban Development Corp. loan, which was repaid in full.
The authority board, now led by Angel Alamo, proposed in September 2011 to name the garage after Hinson. However, money was not available until this year to complete the project, Bier said.
The authority paid Allied Environmental Signage of Eatontown, N.J., $119,000 to put the 37 characters that spell Hinson's full name on both sides of the garage with lighting fixtures above the sign, plus a plaque with Hinson's image and biography that has yet to go up.
The Camden County Board of Freeholders picked up the tab for the three Primas City Hall signs at each end of City Hall for $35,000.
The county also picked up the $3,000 tab for the naming this year of yet another city structure - the downtown branch of the Camden County Library. It was named after former Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez.
Cruz-Perez, now an outreach coordinator for the Camden County Improvement Authority, was a Democratic assemblywoman in the Fifth District from 1995 to 2010 and was known for community involvement.
She was criticized by some community members for cosponsoring legislation enabling the extension of the controversial state takeover of Camden.
Hinson was a political mentor to Primas, Cruz-Perez, and Redd..
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