Hank Hillin, former Davidson County sheriff and FBI agent, dies at 90

Henderson “Hank” Hillin, former FBI agent who led the investigation into Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton’s clemency scandal in the 1970s and later became a one-term Davidson County sheriff from 1990 to 1994, has died. He was 90.

Hillin grew up on a farm on Neely’s Bend in Nashville, according to an obituary published by Williamson Memorial Funeral Home and Cremation Services. Hillin received his bachelor’s degree from Lipscomb University, where he played baseball for the Bisons. He then became a coach and teacher at Hillsboro High School in Williamson County, where he met his wife of 68 years, Frances Hillin.

Hank Hillin’s tenure at Hillsboro took a turn when he was drafted into the army. After serving in the military, he embarked on a 27-year career at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where he led the investigation into the Blanton administration and the scandal of selling pardons and abusing the state’s parole procedures.

The scandal, one of the biggest corruption cases in Tennessee history, rocked Blanton’s reputation and his tenure in its waning hours. The disgraced former governor was succeeded by Republican Lamar Alexander, who took office early to circumvent Blanton, in effort backed by both Republicans and Democrats. 

Blanton scandal:How one of Tennessee’s most dramatic political moments unfolded 40 years ago

In 1985, years after Blanton’s downfall, Hillin’s memoir — “FBI Codename Tennpar: Tennessee’s Ray Blanton Years” — was published. The former FBI agent reflected upon the investigation into the Blanton administration as the scandal unfolded. 

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