“I believe that positive social change is the foundation of our democratic nation.” – Arthur Hicks
Dr. Arthur Norris Hicks, one of the few surviving original Tuskegee Airman, passed away on December 11, 2017 in Sedona, Arizona where he lived for six months. He was a World War II veteran, civil rights activist, educator, elected official, and a devoted husband and father.
Prior to moving to Sedona, Arthur was a forty-four-year resident of Lompoc, California, including eight years on Vandenberg A.F.B.
Arthur was born in Sparta, Georgia on November 21, 1922, the second son of Carrie and Arthur Hicks and the third of nine children. The family moved to Atlanta, Georgia when Arthur was two years old.
Arthur married Edith Maude Ike on August 3, 1946 in Philadelphia. After 67 years of marriage his beloved Edith passed away on December 26, 2013.
Due to a glut of pilots at the end of World War II, a number of them, including Arthur, were honorably discharged. However, after he and Edith moved to Dayton, Ohio and their first child, Arthur Norris Hicks, II, was born in 1947, Arthur returned to the Army/Air Corps under a regulation that allowed honorably discharged lieutenants in the Army/Air Corps to return as Master Sergeants.
Arthur began his second career in the military as a mechanics supervisor for bomber aircraft. He was stationed in Lockbourne, Ohio, then in Smyrna, Tennessee followed by a stint at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska, where his second child, Joyce, was born in 1952. There followed assignments in Nebraska and Texas, where Arthur's third child, Anthony (“Tony”), was born in 1962. His final station was Vandenberg Air Force Base where he was the Missile Guidance Superintendent for three Titan II Missile sites.
Throughout his military service and in civilian life, Arthur was outspoken about bigotry against African Americans. For example, in Smyrna, Tennessee, he protested the segregated housing in military barracks and the practice of only allowing blacks to use the pool on Wednesdays after which the pool was emptied, scrubbed down and refilled for the use of whites until the following Wednesday when the practice was repeated. In Wichita Falls, Texas, he pointed out that the base was violating Brown v. Board of Education when it insisted his daughter Joyce attend a distant public school instead of the segregated school located five blocks from their house. As a result, Joyce desegregated that school.
Arthur again found segregation when he moved to California. “It was a seemingly never-ending battle”, he stated. “On arriving at Vandenberg AFB in 1963, family housing on base was limited and off base housing for African Americans was nonexistent.”
While at Vandenberg AFB, Arthur pursued the college degree he had deferred to support his family in 1947. In 1970, Arthur received his B.A. from the University of Nebraska. He continued pursuing his education and received his Masters Degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and began work on a PhD.
After serving in the military for 28 years, in 1971 Arthur worked for the Lompoc Unified School District for 13 years as a Cabrillo High School teacher until he retired in 1984. He also taught part time for Alan Hancock College and Chapman College, became Assistant Director of Chapman College Programs at the Lompoc Federal Prison and designed and founded the Chapman College program at the Men's Colony in San Louis Obispo. From 1990 to 2002, Arthur served three terms as an elected School Board Trustee for the Lompoc Unified School District.
One of Arthur's proudest achievements was a playing a pivotal role in the racial integration of the Elks. In 1989, there were no African Americans in local Elks lodges. He was angered by the treatment of an African American police officer who had worked with the Elks on barbeques and in the kitchen yet was denied membership in the Lompoc Elks Lodge. “After having served 28 years in the military protecting our freedom, I questioned why I was doing nothing to change this type of practice in such a highly regarded social institution. It was a wake-up moment. I had and get up and do something.”
Arthur, his wife Edith, and son Tony, began a letter writing campaign to clubs, churches, schools, city councils, newspapers, county supervisors and State Senator Gary Hart. Eventually, the NAACP joined Arthur in the fight to desegregate the local Elks Club. The local chapter relied on the national rulebook that allowed the practice of blackballing. As a result of this pressure and publicity, the national Elks amended their rulebook to eliminate blackballing.
Arthur founded the Central Coast chapter of Tuskegee Airmen and served as the Chair of the National Scholarship Tuskegee Airmen Selection Committee. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Tuskegee University and was a co-recipient of a Congressional Gold Medal for his service as a Tuskegee Airman. Arthur was named Lompoc Valley Historical Society's and Lompoc Valley Chamber of Commerce's Man of the Decade for 1990-2000 and was recognized by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. He chaired a number of organizations, including the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party Central Committee, the Lompoc Democratic Club, the Santa Barbara County Human Relations Commission and the Civil Rights Committee of the Lompoc branch of the NAACP.
One of Arthur's proudest moments was attending the 2007 inauguration of Barack Obama.
Arthur and Edith were active in the First Presbyterian Church of Lompoc where Arthur served as an elder. In later years they joined Valley of the Flowers United Church of Christ in Lompoc.
Arthur is survived by his three children, Arthur Hicks II (Debra Krutul), Joyce Hicks (Eric Behrens), and Anthony Hicks (Ann Wendell) and seven grandchildren, Jeremy, Kevin and Jennette Hicks, Philip Behrens (Amanda), Michelle Behrens (Geoff Brown), and Isabelle and Jack Burke. Arthur is also survived by his older sister, Emily Noiles, his younger sisters Ella Dansby and Marie Tanner and his younger brother, Henry Johnson. He was predeceased by his older brother, Ingram Hicks, his younger sisters Carolyn Terrell and Harriett Mack and his younger brother Duroc Hicks. Arthur is also survived by his many cousins, nieces and nephews.
A memorial service is scheduled for March 17, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. at Chapel One, 587 Summersill Rd., Vandenberg A.F.B, CA. 93437. RSVP to (805) 606-5773 by March 9, 2018. For base access, unless you are active or retired military personnel, you must provide your birth date and either your driver's license number or other government issued identification with your RSVP.
At a later date, a funeral and inurnment will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.