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Mr. William Hicks Sr., age 97 of 1765 St. Luke Ch. Rd. Goldston, NC passed on Friday, February 16, 2018 at his residence.
William Hicks Sr. was born on November 20, 1920 to the late John Wesley Hicks
Martha (Abrams) Hicks in Ninety-Six, South Carolina (near Greenwood, South Carolina).
William attended Belmar Elementary School, graduated from Connelly Technical Institute, held Pittsburgh city high school record in track and field, for many years.
On Feb.16, 2018, William Hicks, Sr. passed quietly in his sleep, while at home in Goldston, North Carolina.
At age 97 he was perhaps one of the last members of the World War II Tuskegee Airmen.
Born in 1920 in a small town in South Carolina, William Hicks moved with his parents and siblings to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the early 1930’s in search of greater opportunities. As a child he became excited about the new and growing field of radio and operated a small amateur radio station from his home.
He would later attend Connelly Technical Institute where he studied radio and electronics and was deeply involved in running the school’s sound system.
In the late 1930s, he played jazz guitar in a trio led by then aspiring pianist Erroll Garner at a popular Pittsburgh, PA club.
A graduate of Connelly Technical Institute, Pittsburgh, PA; and long-time Pittsburgh resident.
In the early 1940’s, as the United States became more involved in World War II, pressure began to escalate to allow African Americans to serve their country in support of the war effort. Finally, despite heavy lobbying, the U.S. Congress decided to experiment with a special group of pilots and air crews from the country’s black population. They would later come to be known as the Tuskegee Airmen because the pilots were trained at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
A young man in his early twenties, William Hicks was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Force to become a part of this elite group as an aircraft electrical specialist.
Mr. Hicks was sent to the European theater in January 1944 after specialized training here in the “states”.
Upon completion of his training, he became part of the 332nd Fighter Group, aka; Tuskegee Airmen.
There he was responsible for servicing and maintaining the electrical systems for all of the aircraft in the squadron’s fleet. Later nicknamed the “Red Tails,” this African-American group of Airmen would go one to perform in an exemplary manner, even out performing many of their counterparts in the, segregated Army.
They went on to receive numerous individual medals and unit citations.
In the early 1950’s, he met and married Gertrude Melton, and together they had (4) children.
Post WWII, William Hicks Sr. studied television engineering at Chicago’s American Television Institute and briefly studied teaching at the University of Pittsburgh.
A family man and entrepreneur, he and his wife, Gertrude raised their four children in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Mr. Hicks was featured in the 2007 PBS documentary, “Fly Boys: Western Pennsylvania’s Tuskegee Airmen”.
He has been interviewed by the United States Department of the Interior, the Pittsburgh Courier, Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the Sanford Herald and various radio and television stations in Pittsburgh.
On special invitation from, then President-elect Barack Obama, he attended the historic 44th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, DC.
This invitation was extended to all the surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen.
A war veteran and recipient of numerous awards, Mr. Hicks was a frequently requested speaker at local schools, churches and community events where he shared his experiences and life lessons as a Tuskegee Airman and stressed the importance of education, excellence and turning impossible situations into victory.
However, his greatest achievement was, accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior...and walking with him for decades.
William Hicks Sr. served as a deacon in his local church, Worldwide Church of God, in Pittsburgh, PA, for over 44 years, prior to moving to North Carolina and attending Victory Church.
A man of wisdom, and a quick-wit, he will be remembered by many and loved by all who knew him.
Truly,William Hicks Sr. will always be know as; a devoted husband and loving father, a great American hero...and a Mighty Man of God!
He was preceded in death by his; wife; Gertrude Melton Hicks; parents, John Wesley Hicks and Martha Abrams Hicks; three brothers, Arthur Hicks, Thomas Hicks and Benjamin Hicks; three sisters, Eva Hicks Davis, Eddie Hicks Logan and Effie Hicks Card.
He is survived by: his children, Angela Hicks, Sharon Hicks Ward, William Hicks Jr., and Barbara L. (Hicks) Jenkins; one brother,Stanley Hicks and a host of grandchildren and great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, other relatives and friends.
Arrangements By: Knotts Funeral Home, Sanford