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Former Mississippi Congressman Jon Hinson Dead At 53

July 25, 1995

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Jon Hinson, the conservative Mississippi congressman who became a gay rights activist after a morals charge cut short his promising political career, is dead at age 53.

Hinson died Friday at his home in Silver Spring, Md. He died of respiratory failure resulting from AIDS, said his friend, Kate McQueen of Washington, D.C.

Hinson rose from relative political obscurity to win Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District seat in 1978 as a conservative Republican. He succeeded Thad Cochran, who was elected that year to the Senate.

Hinson resigned April 13, 1981, early in his second term, after being arrested in a men’s restroom in a federal building on Capitol Hill on an oral sodomy charge. He was taken into custody along with a male Library of Congress employee.

Hinson said at the time that his resignation had been ``the most painful and difficult decision of my life.″

He later publicly acknowledged his homosexuality and became active in the gay-rights movement. He helped organize the lobbying group ``Virginians for Justice″ and fought against the ban on gays in the military. He also was a founding member of the Fairfax Lesbian and Gay Citizens Association in Fairfax County, Va.

A native of Tylertown, he never returned to his home state, but lived quietly in the Washington area, first in Alexandria, Va., and then Silver Spring.

Hinson won the second term despite his revelation that in 1976, while a Cochran aide, he was arrested on a charge of committing an obscene act. He also disclosed that he survived a 1977 fire that killed nine people at the Cinema Follies, a Washington theater that catered to a gay clientele. He was rescued from under a pile of bodies _ one of only four men that survived.

In an article last year for the Washington Blade, a gay newspaper, Hinson wrote that when first elected to Congress, he was ``still closeted and into heavy denial.″

Hinson’s body was cremated and the ashes will be buried in his hometown following a private service. McQueen said a memorial service was being planned in Washington.

He is survived by a brother, Robert Hinson of Gulfport.

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