I wanted to take a moment to pass along some sad news about an amazing individual among our military family.
George Hickman, Jr. was a member of the famous Tuskegee Airmen, who were the first African-American fighter pilots in World War II. He is well known by members of the Seattle media as he is the first to greet them off the elevator when they arrive at the press box. If you attended last year’s Military Appreciation Day Game, Mr. Hickman was the gentleman raising the 12th Man Flag prior to kickoff (see photo to the right).
If you’re in the Seattle area, you may have seen some of these articles, and what I have read validates my impression of Mr. Hickman in the few opportunities I was able to speak with him. I think Seattle Times columnist Steve Kelley said it best that George was “a source of eternal sunshine.”
Every time I ran into Mr. Hickman, including his final game this preseason, he always had a warm smile, eager to shake hands, and willing to talk Seahawks football. Although he didn’t have a clear vision of the field where he stood in the Seahawks press box, there were plenty of occasions where he shifted from his post to be sure to catch the action on the field.
In reading about the life of Mr. Hickman over these past few days, I’ve been amazed and also disgusted about what he had to go through to serve his country. For me, I’ve always had a glamorous idea of what it must have been like to be among the pioneers of a historic group of military members. But to hear some of his accounts, it was far from glamorous, as he had to fight discrimination, mistreatment, and hate.
It takes quite a bit of courage to sign up to serve your country, especially during a time of war, and even more so during a time where he almost certainly expected to face discrimination. Judging by Mr. Hickman’s humble nature, it certainly wasn’t any expectation for recognition, but for the love he had for aviation and for his country.
The Seahawks’ SpiritOf12.com team interviewed Mr. Hickman back in December 2010 and the video is available on YouTube. You can also view it on the front page of the Military Sea Hawkers website (and at the bottom of this post). George talks about his favorite Seahawks over the years, the work ethic he learned through his mother, and the approach the Tuskegee Airmen took through their service.
“We not only proved that we could do a good job flying,” said Hickman. “But we tried to be better than the very best.”