Sam Kinch Jr.

Sam Kinch Jr. Sam Kinch Jr. of Austin, a retired political reporter and writer, died Wednesday, Feb. 1. A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 6 at Covenant Presbyterian Church. Sam traveled a long way, and all of the roads weren't paved. But he was a Christian, married a strong woman, raised three bright kids, toiled around Texas politicians for 40 years and, at an advanced age, got his alcoholism under control. So he surely wasn't afraid of death; he just learned that the cavalry doesn't always get there on time. In his professional life, Sam tried to make policy, politics and politicians both interesting and entertaining. As a loving husband, father, brother, friend and teacher, he tried to make life itself interesting and entertaining. He wrote this obituary in the same vein. He loved Texas politics and Texas history and University of Texas football, but he also loved laughter, participatory sports in earlier years, the outdoors, country music, gospel songs and corny old movies, particularly when they were shared with his nuclear and extended family. He and Lilas also loved to travel in the United States and abroad, to take pictures of their experiences and to share with others what they learned from and enjoyed on their travels. Sam was born in Fort Worth on Feb. 18, 1940, a seventh-generation Texan, ninth-generation Presbyterian and the son of Harriet (Totsy) Stokes Kinch, a school teacher in Temple and later a school administrator in Austin, and Sam Kinch Sr., a newspaper reporter and editor in Temple, Fort Worth and Austin for 37 years. Sam was raised in Austin, where he attended Pease and Bryker Woods Elementary Schools, the old University Junior High School and McCallum High School (class of 1958). After service in the U.S. Army and while still a reservist with the 90th Infantry Division, he earned a bachelor of arts degree in history (June, 1963) and a master's degree in journalism and history (January, 1965) from The University of Texas. He worked summers and part-time in a variety of newspaper jobs in Austin, Temple and Fort Worth. He was the 1962-63 editor of The Daily Texan, the UT student newspaper, for which he also covered his first session of the Texas Legislature in 1961 and his first gubernatorial primary race in 1962. Sam first worked in the Capitol as a House page in a 1954 special session, after which he worked every regular session in some capacity through 1997, except when he was living out of state. He also reported on every statewide election and most legislative elections between 1970 and 1998. On April 12, 1963, Sam married high-school sweetheart Lilas Janice Shelby (McCallum class of 1960). After she finished her bachelor's degree in government and philosophy at UT and Sam finished his master's thesis and their daughter was born, they moved to Washington. There, from 1964 to 1970, for The National Observer (deceased), the Dallas Times-Herald (deceased) and The Dallas Morning News, Sam wrote about Congress and national politics during the Lyndon Johnson and early Richard Nixon administrations. He moved to The Dallas Morning News bureau in Austin in 1970 and for 15 years was the chief state political writer, winning a number of awards for his political coverage, for a spot story about his ride on a hijacked airplane to Cuba and for a 1972 book that he co-authored (Texas Under a Cloud) about the Sharpstown stock-fraud scandal. Because of that book, he also contributed a section on the Sharpstown Scandal to Volume III of The Handbook of Texas published in 1976. He also co-wrote, in retirement, one book about state-level reform of the campaign-finance laws (Too Much Is Not Enough) and another on judicial-election reform (Crapshoot Justice). In 1984 Sam co-founded and began writing Texas Weekly, the largest statewide report on state government and politics. He sold his interest in it on Sept. 1, 1998, to take life easier and become a part-time consultant and writer. His daughter, Keary Anjanette Kinch, was born in Austin in 1964. His sons, Samuel Sean Kinch and Ashby McDalton Kinch, were born in the Washington area in 1967 and 1970, respectively, but all moved home with the armadillo. All three Kinch children also graduated from McCallum High School, then Keary from the University of Texas, Sean from Stanford University and Ashby from Occidental College. Keary is now a professional fund-raiser in Austin. Sean is a PhD English teacher at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, TN. Ashby is a PhD English professor at the University of Montana in Missoula, MT. In addition to his wife and children, he is survived by his daughters-in-law Jill Savola Kinch and Amy Fowler Kinch, his son-in-law Tim Evgenides, his granddaughters Amani Janice Kinch Alexander of Austin, Shelby Auchincloss Kinch of Missoula, MT, Katherine Victoria Kinch of Nashville, TN, Helen Joanna Kinch Evgenides of Austin and by his grandsons Griffin Ashby Kinch of Missoula, MT, and Samuel Rice Kinch of Nashville TN, and by his sister and brother-in-law Ann and Jack Walden of Carrollton, TX. Sam came from a small nuclear family of Kinches, but he also adopted by marriage and incorporation Lilas' innumerable Shelby relatives, or at least most of them. Sam requested that no money be wasted on flowers for his funeral. Rather, those who feel compelled to make a contribution should send money in their own names to the College of Liberal Arts Foundation at the University of Texas (UT College of Liberal Arts, UT-Austin 78712). At $10 or $25 a head, those folks will feel the impact and use the money wisely. That act of charity is for the simple reason that members of his immediate family earned a total of eight UT degrees, all in the liberal arts. Other than the Presbyterian Church, most recently Covenant Presbyterian in Austin, in which he was elected an elder at age 27, and the University of Texas Ex-Students' Association, of which he was a life member, Sam's only long-term organizational commitments were to the University of Texas in support of UT academics, to the Society of Professional Journalists, which he joined in 1960, and to Alcoholics Anonymous, which helped him stay sober in his later years.

Published in Austin American-Statesman from Feb. 3 to Feb. 4, 2011