Winton Hinkle, 1942-2019
Winton Hinkle – Articulate. Calm. Professional. Principled. Intelligent and adept at breaking down complex matters so laymen could understand.
All are descriptions fellow attorneys use for Winton Hinkle, a founder of the firm in 1987. Well before attending Washburn University School of Law from 1966 to 1968, he had opportunities to hone those skills.
The only child of Mildred and Ralph Hinkle, Winton Hinkle grew up in Garden City, Kansas. Debate was one of his many school activities, and he was a member of Garden City High’s state championship team in 1959. It was also during high school he and Pauletta Bird met – when he pumped gas for her 1949 Chevy pickup one day.
He went to Emporia State University in 1960, to become a teacher. She followed him there a year later, and they soon married. His successful debate career continued at Emporia State, including a trip to a national tourney at West Point. After graduating with teaching degrees, he and Pauletta taught in Kansas City, Kansas, before he decided to pursue a law career.
He had great success at Washburn, earning the top spot in his class and serving as editor-in-chief of the law journal. Pauletta taught school while he studied law, and they weathered a memorable event in 1966, when an F5 tornado hit Washburn and destroyed the law school and other buildings.
A Wichita law firm came calling in his third year, and in 1968 he began his law career at Weigand, Curfman, Brainerd, Harris & Kaufman. There he was soon exposed to his calling: bonds.
Bond law isn’t a practice one learns in law school. Instead, the highly detailed field requiring extensive knowledge of the tax and securities codes is learned on the job from the few attorneys specializing in municipal finance.
Cities, towns, school districts, and private companies all depend on the opinions of bond counsel such as Hinkle to say whether a bond issue is sound or not. Great amounts of money are at stake in those opinions, and the liability is large and long for firms, as bond issues run many years. Reputation is everything for the attorneys involved, and Hinkle would develop a fine one.
“Everybody knew Winton, and his name was known,” said David Elkouri, a founder of what’s now Hinkle Law Firm. “His name was on every bond issue of any significance in the state.”
“The buyers really look very hard at who the legal counsel is, and if you’re not well respected those bonds will not get sold because people won’t be comfortable that all the legalities have been satisfied,” Elkouri said. “When Winton did an opinion, nobody questioned it. It was rock solid.”
During his career – he retired in 2014 – Hinkle served for 16 years as the city of Wichita’s bond counsel and handled bond issues involving Beech Aircraft, Cessna Aircraft, Presbyterian Manor retirement facilities, the Coleman Co., Wesley Medical Center, the Via Christi hospital system, AGCO, and the Wichita public schools.
His clients valued his opinion on bond and other matters, as did his fellow lawyers.
“He had the ability to assimilate complex facts and convey relevant information to clients and their governing bodies,” said Joe Norton, a municipal finance attorney with Gilmore & Bell who first met Hinkle in the 1970s.
“I’ve never seen a question or problem posed to him that he wasn’t able to break it down and talk through it,” said Dale Ward, a member who began his career in the bond department.
“He could walk into a room full of lawyers that didn’t know each other, all with their own egos and agendas, and if it got off track or out of control, he could calm it down and get it back on track,” Ward said.
“If you were going to go to central casting to portray the quintessential bond attorney, he fulfilled that role,” said Allen Bell, Wichita’s urban development director who worked with Hinkle in the bond business and later while with the state and city.
“People that go into bond transactions are in unfamiliar territory and dealing with millions of dollars. It can be quite scary,” he said. “You need somebody that you can trust and rely on. Winton has the ability to provide his clients a great deal of reassurance. He knows what they’re getting into and gets them through it.”
“Everyone that came in would call him Mr. Hinkle,” Ward said. “He had that persona about him.”