Charles Hillinger, a retired Los Angeles Times reporter and columnist who was known for human-interest stories about colorful characters he met while roving around America, has died. He was 82.
Mr. Hillinger, died Monday at a nursing home in Rancho Palos Verdes after a battle with melanoma, said his son, Brad.
Mr. Hillinger joined the Times in 1946, working in the editorial library before moving on to become a reporter. He covered the Beatles’ 1964 visit to Los Angeles and the 1969 splashdown of Apollo 11’s mission to the moon.
From 1985-91, his “Charles Hillinger’s America” column was syndicated by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service to more than 600 newspapers.
Mr. Hillinger traveled around the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in search of characters. He worked on the premise that “everybody’s important and interesting,” he told CNN in 1996.
In Times feature stories, his column and books, Mr. Hillinger wrote about a 78-year-old prospector living in a tiny Death Valley-area ghost town; a Manhattan sidewalk pickle maker with 65 years on the job; and a Kansas crop artist whose “mural” was as large as 14 football fields.
Altogether, he contributed nearly 6,000 human-interest stories before retiring from the Times in 1992.
Mr. Hillinger “never wrote a dull story,” said William F. Thomas, a former Times editor.
“He had an amazing amount of energy, and he was a very prolific writer,”
Thomas said. “He used to have stories stacked on my desk. I kept telling him I couldn’t use him every day without wearing out the public, but they were all good.”