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Bill Pinkney, the first Black person to round the world alone, died at the age of 87.

Beginning in 1990, the Chicagoan’s 22-month, 27,000-mile voyage aboard a 47-foot cutter enthralled millions of youngsters who followed his expedition on resident educational television channel.

The film was utilized in “The Incredible Voyage of Bill Pinkney,” an award-winning documentary that broadcast on the Disney Channel, National Geographic, and PBS stations.

In 1994, the former cosmetics CEO also published a children’s book titled “Captain Bill Pinkney’s Journey.”

In 2019, readers were enthralled by a totally different trip when Pinkney and his former wife, Ina Pinkney, were featured in a New York Times photo essay on their marriage and exceedingly amicable divorce.

In 1965, Bill, who grew up impoverished on Chicago’s South Side, married Ina, who grew up Jewish in Brooklyn and Long Island. He was married for the second time.

After converting to Judaism at the age of 12, Chicagoan spent his life at sea, including stints in the military and an epic 22-month odyssey.

Ina was 21 years old when she met Bill in Greenwich Village at a coffee shop. “As soon as I spotted him across the crowded room, I said to my friend, ‘Susan, I’m going to marry him,'” Ina told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Friday.

“And I sat down and talked to him for a little while, and then we went out to eat.” That was the end of it. For me, it was a done deal. And the fact that he was Jewish helped much more.”

Despite the fact that Bill was raised Jewish and converted to Judaism as an adult, her parents severed ties with the couple, and none of her family attended the wedding.

Bill was 12 years old when he returned home from church with his mother, who had divorced his father when he was six, according to Ina. “He said,’I can’t go there anymore.'” “Because all I hear is that everything gets better after you die,” Bill stated to his mother.

That can’t be right.” His mother urged him to find something in which he could believe, and after a trip to the library, the adolescent said, “I’m Jewish.”


When Bill and Ina, who grew up in a Conservative Jewish environment, were engaged, Bill chose to undergo a formal conversion, giving himself the Hebrew name “Barak ben Avraham Avinu.”

When Ina inquired why he thought he required a formal conversion, Bill said, “Because without this, I could not be buried in a Jewish cemetery next to you.”

Bill would often Zoom into services at the Hebrew Congregation of St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, according to Ina, and she would sometimes join him online.

They’d been married for 36 years. The couple split up in 2001, when Bill opted to follow his sailing goals while Ina pursued her profession as a famous baker and chef in Chicago.

“My life was on the sea, hers was on the land,” Bill said in 2019 to the New York Times. Bill, according to Ina, would add, “If it doesn’t have a lobby, it would never be her hobby” – that is, she preferred hotels or cruise ships over the sail boats he enjoyed. Ina used saltier slang to express her boredom on the lake.

Later in life, he married MigdaliaVachier Pinkney. He is survived by his sister, Naomi Pinkney, as well as a daughter from his previous marriage and two grandkids.

William Pinkney was born in Chicago on September 15, 1935. He became a makeup artist and established a line of women’s cosmetics after spending eight years in the Navy, finally working as a marketing manager for Revlon and director of cosmetics marketing for Johnson Products Company.

According to History Makers, he became the director of marketing for the Chicago Department of Human Services in 1980.

Pinkney originally learned to sail tiny cargo skiffs while stationed with the Navy in Puerto Rico in the 1950s. When he was working in Chicago, he started sailing seriously on Lake Michigan.

Pinkney was also the first commander of the recreated Amistad, the Spanish schooner whose crew was slain in an enslaved African insurrection in 1839.

The ship’s restoration was inspired by Steven Spielberg’s 1997 film, “Amistad,” about the insurrection; as captain, Pinkney accompanied schoolteachers to Africa on a path following the Middle Passage passage, which transported enslaved Africans from Senegal to the Americas.

He maintained a charter boat company in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, in recent years.

Pinkney also served as a senior adviser at National Geographic. He was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2021.

Pinkney discussed his round-the-world cruise on a boating website, saying one of the highlights was sailing by South Africa two weeks after Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years in prison.

“I sailed past Robben Island, where he’d been imprisoned, flying a red, black, and green spinnaker, the colors of the African liberation movement,” Pinkney said. “As an afterthought, I should’ve put a big yellow Star of David on there as well [laughing], because I’m Jewish.”

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Written by Jamil Johnson