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Legacy Award recipient has long record of service to University of Wyo, state

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Tragedy, a lukewarm college student record and an uninspiring, early performance managing the family ranch threw some sharp turns in John Hines’ life – but those roads brought him back to where he was probably meant to be – on the ranch and in Wyoming.

A third-generation Gillette sheep and cattle rancher, Hines is recipient of this year’s Legacy Award, presented to those who have benefitted the college through scholarships, donations and service.

Through his efforts on behalf of the college and his 30-year tenure in the Wyoming Legislature, University of Wyoming (UW) students and Wyoming citizens have benefitted.

“I was in a position I could afford to do a few things,” says Hines, who had just finished cooking a noon meal for his hired hand of 25 years on the family ranch. “I’m single, so I didn’t have a spouse or children. I felt they were all good programs.”

Benefits ag students

He took advantage of the endowment gift matching funds program and created the Hines Family Scholarship in 2005. Hines was appointed to serve by then-Governor Dave Freudenthal on the first Wyoming Brucellosis Coordination Team. He’s made donations to the UW veterinary diagnostic laboratory to help purchase diagnostic equipment and a charitable gift fund benefits the Wildlife-Livestock Health Program and UW Athletics.

The Hines Family Scholarship has a caveat – only those returning for a second year of school are eligible.

“I think those are the ones who are really interested in getting a degree and acquiring an education,” Hines says.

Third-generation rancher

His grandfather Hines and grandmother McKenzie both came from Scotland, and his grandfather started herding sheep in 1904. The Hines ranch and the McKenzie ranch were side by side. His father Dwight was born on the ranch, and his mother Annie was a McKenzie.

Hines’ early years started hard. His father died of heart problems at age 49 when Hines was a high schooler, and he helped his mother run the ranch.

After a year and a half or so, “I got to thinking things over,” he says. “I wasn’t doing that good at the university or at the ranch, so my mother leased the ranch, and I joined the Army.”

He worked for the veterinary services, something that would later prompt his benefitting UW’s wildlife-livestock disease efforts. Hines was discharged in 1960 and returned to run the ranch.

Hines was looking into agricultural programs through Extension to help him as a producer.

“The people at UW who knew me pretty well said I didn’t need the Extension courses,” Hines says. “They were more for beginning ranchers.”

He did take advantage of the local Extension office and Extension programs offered around the state, saying he believed keeping up on information and learning was important. Hines had not graduated from UW.

“So I always thought I would someday get a degree,” he says, laughs and adds, “looks doubtful now.”

Ranch management skills sought after

Still, Hines says an economics course on bookkeeping and planning is probably the most helpful class he ever took while attending the college.

“I kept extensive ranch records and different people came to the university and asked if they could come up and see my operation and learn from it,” he says.

One was from New Zealand. He stayed at the ranch a few days and invited Hines to stay with his family if he were ever in New Zealand.

“A year or two later I did,” says Hines. “He was director of a research station, and he took me to see several sheep farmers there. Those families were kind of like the families I knew while I was growing up.”

Later, two of the New Zealander’s sons ended up on the Hines ranch for a time as they traveled the world.


Ranching was only part of Hines’ life. The other was his service in the legislature, serving on almost every committee. Hines adds he never could have been in the legislature were it not for his employee on the ranch, freeing time for service to the state.

“It’s a lot more than two months in the wintertime,” Hines notes, “particularly when I was on so many committees.”

Hines served in the House from 1985-2002 and in the Senate 2003-14. He was Senate President 2009-10, Senate Majority Floor Leader 2007-08 and Senate vice president 2005-06.

He decided not to run again in 2014.

Ranching and the legislature demanded most of his time, and the only other things he really liked doing – and still does – were attending UW football games and other sporting events at UW.

“I like to travel,” he adds. “I had a high school teacher who traveled all over the world. He was such an interesting person, I thought, ‘Boy, when I get out of school, I’m going to do that.’”

“Things didn’t quite work out that way,” he says. “One day I was collecting Social Security checks, and I hadn’t been anywhere.”

He’s since traveled to almost 30 countries and says, “I found out Wyoming is the best place to be anyway.”

This article is courtesy of the University of Wyoming.

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