St. Louis, Missouri, US
Airman, Tuskagee Airmen
8/19/2012, Seattle, Washington, US
George Hickman, a Tuskegee airman decorated as among the first black pilots to fly for the U.S. military during World War II, died over the weekend. His wife, Doris, confirmed to the Associated Press that he died on Sunday morning in Seattle. He was 88.
Hickman had a long association with the sports community in Seattle, working as an usher at University of Washington sporting events as well as NFL football games with the Seattle Seahawks.
“Things will be a little different right before we go out on the court not being able to shake the hand of George Hickman,” UW men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar tweeted. “He was one of the most inspirational men that I have ever met.”
“George Hickman will be missed. He represented the UW and the Tuskegee airmen with class. I will always appreciate how he treated my family,” added UW football coach Steve Sarkisian.
Hickman raised the “12th Man Flag” at a Seahawks game in November. “He was always quick with a handshake and a smile to those entering the press box and when asked how he was doing, Hickman would answer, ‘Blessed to be here,'” the Seahawks’ Clare Farnsworth wrote.
In 2007, Hickman traveled with other Tuskegee airmen to Washington, D.C., to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. He also attended President Obama’s inauguration in 2009. The critically-acclaimed movie, “Red Tails,” which is produced by George Lucas and tells the story of the Tuskegee airman – the first African-American aviators to serve in the armed forces, is being released on DVD and Blu-Ray Tuesday.
The grandson of slaves, Hickman grew up in St. Louis, and joined the segregated pilot training program in Tuskegee, Ala. in 1943, serving until 1945, according to his Army profile.
“There was nothing better in the world. In that biplane, the guy wires between the wings were like musical instruments,” he told The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash., in 2011.
But Hickman also recalled in a 2009 Associated Press interview the humiliation of being pushed off sidewalks in the South and spit at while in uniform. As a cadet captain, he was effectively blocked from flying when he called out white superior officers for the mistreatment of a fellow black cadet. “I felt like I had really been mistreated,” he told the AP.
In 1955, he met and married his wife in Amarillo, Texas, while volunteering with her mother at a local library that supplied multi-cultural books to public schools, according to an Army article profiling the Hickmans.
“He was just a wonderful man,” Doris Hickman told The Associated Press on Monday.
He moved to Seattle in 1955 to work for Boeing. He retired in 1984.