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Wednesday, April 1, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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William Hendricks, Toys For Tots Founder

Los Angeles Times

BURBANK, Calif. - William L. Hendricks, the retired Marine Corps colonel inspired by a homemade rag doll to found the Toys for Tots campaign that has brought a measure of Christmas festivity to millions of needy youngsters for 45 years, has died.

Mr. Hendricks, 87, whose civilian career included the production of films, cartoons and TV commercials for Warner Bros., died Sunday.

It was a gentle suggestion from his wife in 1947 that first produced what now is a nationwide outpouring of toys.

He was admiring a rag doll that Diane Hendricks had crocheted out of yarn when she asked, "Wouldn't it be nice to give this to some poor youngster who isn't going to have a good Christmas?"

He replied that he did not know of any agency that distributed toys.

"Why don't you start one?" she suggested.

The following day he and a fellow officer made a proposal to their superiors for an annual Marine Corps-sponsored toy drive.

With only two weeks left before Christmas that year, Hendricks, whose media friends launched a widespread publicity campaign, and a few dozen fellow Marines managed to round up about 5,000 used toys, which they delivered to local children up until 11:30 p.m. Christmas Eve.

At Warner Bros., Mr. Hendricks worked in promotion and headed the cartoon division that produced characters such as Wile E. Coyote, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Sylvester and Tweety.

In 1960 he was given an honorary Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for producing the Marine Corps documentary "A Force in Readiness."

In 1962 he was nominated for an Oscar for "The John Glenn Story" a Navy Department documentary about the first American to orbit Earth.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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