Bobby Hinds

On this date in 1931, fitness entrepreneur Bobby Hinds was born in Kenosha, Wis. He had an impoverished upbringing, with an alcoholic father and a mother with polio. At age 10 he was sent to reform school for his part in several robberies and burglaries in the company of older boys.

“I was quite religious being brought up. My parents were Pentecostal, a Four Square gospel kind of thing,” Hinds said in a March 2014 interview on FFRF’s Freethought Radio. He chose Catholicism in reform school, where “the priest had a tremendous power over me.” He told about sexual abuse before his arrest, by foster parents after being released and then by his parole officer, a Moravian minister.

As a high school senior, he lived at his best friend Alan Ameche’s house. Ameche went on to win football’s Heisman Trophy and have an NFL career. Hinds, who had boxed Golden Gloves in Kenosha, sparred and starred at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a varsity boxer, graduating with majors in criminology and art.

He taught art at Madison East High School and moonlighted as a professional boxer before a broken wrist ended his boxing. Before long, the extroverted Hinds, a natural salesman, embarked on the venture that made him a millionaire. At age 46 he “made a little discovery that if you string 65 big plastic beads on a piece of nylon cord, what you’ve got is a superior jump rope.” (Wisconsin State Journal, March 18, 2023)

After he talked his way on to the national TV show “To Tell the Truth” hosted by Garry Moore (“Will the real Bobby Hinds please stand up?”) and demonstrated the rope, J.C. Penney bought 85,000 Bobby Hinds’ Lifelines. He appeared on talk shows hosted by Johnny Carson (twice), Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas. Time magazine dubbed him “The Jump Rope King.” His company, LifelineUSA, was a leader in the 1970s fitness movement that was an early adopter of resistance training, a way to exercise without weights.

Hinds sold Lifeline to a Chicago-based company in 2014. A few months later, at age 82, he was inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame. His office walls were lined with dozens of photos of celebrities, from entertainment, sports and politics, who used his products and became his friends.

Asked once to name a person in history he admired, Hinds said, “Clarence Darrow because of his passion for truth.” His said his religious doubts started when he was about 13 when he started reading biographies about Darrow, Voltaire, Schopenhauer and Gore Vidal. He joined FFRF in 1984. (For an interesting feature with photos of Hinds and celebrities, scroll to page 8 in the April 2014 issue of Freethought Today.)

He married his wife Joy in 1955 and they had four children raised in a freethinking atmosphere: Jil, Jef, Juli and Jonny. He died of heart failure at age 91 and donated his body to the UW School of Medicine. (D. 2023) 

Freedom From Religion Foundation