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Warren Hinckle, former editor of Ramparts magazine, dies at 77

Warren Hinckle, the writer who transformed Ramparts magazine from a small quarterly Catholic publication in the 1960s to one that focused on political and investigative journalism, has died. He was 77.

Hinckle died Thursday morning of complications from pneumonia,  according to daughter Pia Hinckle. 

Hinckle, who wore a rakish patch over his left eye because of a childhood car accident, had been in declining health for years and spent the last few weeks in a San Francisco hospital, family members said. 

In the mid-1960s, Hinckle worked as a writer, promotions manager and executive editor of Ramparts, a popular New Left publication that once boasted a circulation of nearly 400,000. Some of its biggest stories include covering the nascent Black Panther movement and how the CIA gave money to civilian organizations such as the National Student Assn.

“What he really wanted to do with Ramparts was to create a Time magazine for the radical left, with very high production values, good writing, good graphics and exciting topics,” said Peter Richardson, who wrote a book about Ramparts magazine in 2009.

“[Ramparts] hit upon this kind of formula that they would do stories that no other outlets would touch and would publicize them in a way that they couldn’t be ignored,” he said.

Family members recalled how Hinckle loved to write and schedule interviews in bars around town, like the Dovre Club in San Francisco. His children often tagged along on his trips to bars and saloons.

“[Hinckle] was able to have conversations and friendships and hatch schemes with everyone from cab drivers to heiresses,” Pia Hinckle said. 

Hinckle left Ramparts years before it folded in 1975. He gained notoriety when he worked for other San Francisco-based publications, including Scanlan’s Monthly, where he helped give birth to gonzo journalism, according to Richardson, when he paired writer Hunter S. Thompson and illustrator Ralph Steadman for “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved.” 

Thompson, who went on to write the famed “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” was among the many guests that Pia Hinckle recalled seeing around the house.

“[My dad] really felt like he needed to fight for justice and do it through his writing,” Pia Hinckle said.

He also urged his children to pursue what they were passionate about, she recalled.

“He believed that every obstacle was an opportunity for creating a better plan,” she said.

In addition to Pia Hinckle, he is survived by his partner, Linda Corso of San Francisco; another daughter, Hilary Hinckle of New York; and a son, Warren Hinckle IV of Boston. He has five grandchildren.

shane.newell@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter @journoshane.

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