The work and dedication of several people across a span of more than 800 miles helped bring the memory of one of Cedartown’s native sons home last week.
A U.S. flag honoring U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Albert Michael Hinton was delivered from Oklahoma City to the courtyard behind the Hawkes Children’s Library in Cedartown on Tuesday, Nov. 24, and presented to his relatives during a final salute ceremony.
Hinton died on Feb. 9, 2018, at the age of 67 at the Veteran’s Medical Center in Oklahoma City. With no known family, he was buried at a cemetery in Oklahoma City and the American flag normally given to the family of a deceased service member hung in his honor on the wall at the YMCA Military Welcome Center at Will Rogers Airport.
According to a report from Oklahoma Fox 25’s Brandon Martin, Andrea Aven, Regent of the Cordelia Steen Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, decided to use its genealogical investigative skills to locate family members for each of the 12 veterans whose flags were on display.
The DAR chapter contacted Greg Gray, Polk County Historical Society Museum Director, last month and asked if they could use the group’s research library to try and find a living relative of Hinton’s.
Through a search and investigation into past Cedartown city directories, Gray found that Hinton had grown up in Cedartown and put a post on Facebook asking for any relatives to contact him.
Dr. Sherri Garrett responded.
Hinton’s cousin, Garrett said she had not seen Hinton since 1968. Other family members saw him in 1973 when he was home on leave.
“So it is not surprising that it took awhile for me to realize that this was my cousin,” Garrett said during the final salute ceremony. “This man in Oklahoma had been a world traveler who visited over 135 countries, a professor of philosophy at University of Central Oklahoma, lived in England for a brief time and worked as a Security Police Officer at the Veterans Medical Center in Oklahoma City.”
When the connection was made, plans began to be put in motion to bring Hinton’s flag back to his hometown and his family.
The Patriot Guard Riders coordinated a “pony express” delivery system, starting in Oklahoma City after a ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 21, and passing it off at the state line as it traveled through Arkansas, Tennessee, and then finally Georgia.
“We are bringing Albert Michael Hinton home today,” Garrett said. “Welcome home, Cousin Albert.”
Hinton attended both Cedar Hill Elementary and Lyles Elementary School and graduated from Cedar Hill High School in 1969. It was in high school where his star began to shine, according to Garrett.
“Teachers recognized that here was an extremely bright student. He was extremely quiet, a loner in some respects, but he was the go-to student with all the answers and managed to excel to become the salutatorian his senior year,” she said.
Hinton joined the United States Air Force not long after graduation, following in the footsteps of his uncle, Roy Hinton, and three of his older cousins who had all enlisted in the Army.
From 1970-1980 he served with distinction and was honorably discharged in 1980. He settled in the Oklahoma City area.
“The military life and the Vietnam War had created a different man,” Garrett said. “More outgoing, charismatic, and philosophical. Based on the information from his obituaries I did not recognize this man.”
But it was the stories of Hinton shouting “amen” during service in the Catholic church he attended that gave Garrett a clue as to her relation to Hinton.
“That let me know that yes, this was indeed my cousin. He was a magnet to people. They were drawn to him and he to them,” she said.
Hinton was honored with a 21-gun salute by the Polk County American Legion Honor Guard, and the Patriot Guard Riders who traveled the last leg of the journey were escorted by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office from the county line to the ceremony.