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In memoriam: ‘Jump Rope King’ Bobby Hinds dies at 91

Bobby Hinds

Longtime and Lifetime FFRF Member Bobby “Sugar” Hinds, “The Jump Rope King” and boxing star, died March 14 at his home in Madison, Wis. He was 91.

He was born Sept. 22, 1931, in Kenosha, Wis.

Hinds made his fortune selling Lifeline jump ropes, which turned into a successful home fitness business. 

Hinds called himself a humanist, and, in 2010, he was among the freethinkers whose statements and photos adorned Madison Metro buses in FFRF’s “Out of the Closet” campaign. His statement: “Being kind with an open mind is my religion.”

In 2014, he was a guest on FFRF’s “Freethought Radio” and also was profiled in Freethought Today, where he said his doubts about religion started “about age 13 when I began reading biographies of Clarence Darrow and Thomas Dewey.”

According to a story in the Milwaukee Journal, at age 13, Hinds “became the nation’s youngest Golden Gloves champion and caught the eye of John Walsh, legendary coach of the powerhouse University of Wisconsin boxing teams.”

“I never would have gone to college otherwise,” Hinds told the Journal Sentinel. Hinds who accepted the scholarship offer and attended UW with childhood pal and future Heisman Trophy winner and NFL star Alan Ameche, his backfield mate at Kenosha High School. Hinds went 38-0 in dual meets.

In 1955, Hinds married Joyce Harrington. They raised four children. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1956.

Hinds appeared on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” “The Merv Griffin Show” and “The Mike Douglas Show.” He also was featured on 10 million boxes of Wheaties. Time magazine dubbed him “The Jump Rope King.”

He was an inductee of the National Fitness Hall of Fame with other notables such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Charles Atlas and Jack LaLanne.

According to a story in the Wisconsin State Journal, CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt in 1978 did one of his “On the Road” segments on Hinds, who jumped rope for part of the interview.

The article stated that Hinds took Kuralt into the backyard of his home, which he had turned into a jump rope-making operation, and told Kuralt that he was making $7,000 a day off the jump ropes and had quickly become a millionaire.

Hinds was a leader in the ’70s fitness movement, was an early adopter of resistance training, a way to exercise without weights that has remained popular.

Hinds’ office was full of souvenirs from musicians he had met: Mick Jagger, Tom Jones, members of U2 and Pink Floyd, a State Journal story from 2000 noted. He saved backstage passes from John Denver, the Oakridge Boys, Marie Osmond and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and had photos of himself with Billy Joel, MC Hammer, Amy Grant, Phil Collins and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among others.

“My dad is just the most incredible person I’ve ever met,” his daughter Jil said. “He would get in people’s souls, and it didn’t matter if it was rock ’n’ roll stars, everybody gravitated toward him. He was just a magnet for people, and they just loved him. He was an incredible, incredible person.”

Jil said her father donated his body to the UW School of Medicine and didn’t want a funeral.

“Our condolences to his wife, Joy, and his children, including Jef and wife Jeanne,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. “Bobby was an early and steadfast member of FFRF, and such such a cheerful, optimistic, indefatigable supporter of freethought causes. He was one-of-a-kind.”